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   by Jacob Solomon

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PARASHAT NITZAVIM 5776: D'VAR TORAH


On hearing the words of this curse, he consoles himself with "it will go well with me, for I go in a way that my heart sees fit", in order to add the 'watered' on the 'thirsty'. G-d will not forgive himů (29:18-19).

The passage warns the Israelites of dire consequences to individuals as well as whole communities that follow the idolatrous lifestyles of the Egyptians and other nations that they encountered and observed.

The expression 'adding the watered on the thirsty' is understood by Rashi to be a metaphor. 'Thirsty' refers to sins done intentionally; a thirsty person is still rational, and he seeks a way to satisfy his desires. 'Watered', in contrast, means sins done by accident. When someone has had too much too much alcoholic drink and becomes intoxicated, he is liable to sin without knowing what he is doing.

So according to Rashi the sense of the pasuk (verse) is that in normal circumstances G-d treats leniently those who sin accidentally. But when an individual behaves in such a way that he believes that he may sin where and when he pleases, G-d holds him responsible for even the unintentional sins. Thus according to Rashi, 'adding the watered on the thirsty' means that the punishment for the unintentional sins is added to the intentional sins.

The S'forno stresses that at that moment the Israelites were 'standing before G-d', for the purpose of 'passing into the covenant' (29:9,11). This involved sheleimut, the complete acceptance of G-d's laws and requirements. Moses' warning the Israelites that they were standing before G-d was to emphasize that G-d knows exactly what every individual is thinking and He will not be deceived. They would not get by with saying one thing and thinking another, as in "They honor Me with their mouths and lips, but their hearts are far removed from Me" (Isaiah 29:13).

The S'forno applies this principle to Moses' warning here. There may well be people who hear the covenant and pretend to accept it for the purpose of shalom yihyeh li, 'it will be good with me'. But they are insincere, they plan on being 'watered', which the S'forno (in contrast to Rashi) interprets as a metaphor for fully indulging their Torah-incompatible desires. They wish to add themselves to the 'thirsty', a metaphor for those who discipline themselves not to indulge in Torah-forbidden activities. Their motive is that as long as they 'sign on' to the covenant, they will share in G-d's blessings for Israel in the Land. However, the lip service will not save from the ultimate: 'all the curses written in this Book will descend' (29:19).

This interpretation is relevant to today, and particularly to this time of the year. There are individuals who attend and participate enthusiastically in the long tefillot of the Yamim Noraim, but fail to identify personal failings and areas of improvement with the sincere desire to put them right in the year ahead. They may even think that joining in the proceedings will settle the account with G-d, and they will resume activities as previously the moment Yom Kippur is over.

But indeed, particularly at this time of the year when G-d is close, the message is 'You are standing before G-d' Who knows precisely what you are thinking and with what degree of sincerity.

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: jacobsol@netvision.net.il for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers

e-mail: jacobsol@netvision.net.il

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