Click HERE to access our Parashah Summary Archive with week-by-week summaries and study questions
Nitzavim-Vayeilech ~ נצבים־וילך ~ 5774
Addressing the assembled multitude, Moses declared that each and every one stood before the Lord to enter into a covenant with Him – a covenant which bound not only those present but extended to future generations. Let no man think that because of G-d’s oath to establish Israel as His people, his individual iniquities would be overlooked, for he and others like him would involve the whole community in the disasters of destruction and exile.
When future generations and distant nations asked the reason for this devastation, they would be told that it was due to G-d’s judgment on a people who had deliberately broken the covenant and turned to idol worship. Nevertheless, even then, should the exiles show true repentance, G-d would have compassion upon them and restore them to their land. Their persecutors would be punished and the people would once again enjoy the blessings of obedience.
It should not be too difficult to return to G-d, for the commandments were not beyond man’s capacity or reach, but within his understanding and will. They had the choice between life and prosperity on the one hand, and death and misfortune on the other. Let them choose life by loving the Lord, hearkening to His voice and cleaving to Him, so that they might dwell in the land promised to their ancestors.
Moses was 120 years old when he announced that his leadership was drawing to its close. He declared that Joshua, had been chosen by G-d as his successor to take command and lead the Israelites to victory. In the presence of the whole assembly, Moses urged Joshua to be strong and of courageous and to place his trust in G-d.
Moses then committed the law to writing, delivered it to the priests and elders (the religious and lay leaders) and charged them to have it read publicly to the Israelites assembled at the Central Sanctuary during the Feast of Tabernacles, at the end of each Sabbatical year. In this way, man, woman and child would hear, study and observe the teachings of the Torah. The book of the law, written by Moses, was placed by the Levites beside the Ark to bear witness against Israel should they ever deviate from its teachings.
G-d disclosed the future course of Israel’s history to Moses. After his death, the people would worship idols and arouse G-d’s anger against them; they would be conquered by other nations and experience great pain and suffering. Moses was told to compose a song and teach it to the people until they knew it by heart; in time to come, when the threatened punishment came, this song would bear witness that they had been forewarned by G-d of the consequence of their iniquity.
MAFTIR Deuteronomy 31: 28 – 30 ~ page 891
HAFTARAH Isaiah 61:10 – 63:9 ~ page 883-7
Zion rejoices because G-d has clothed her, as it were, in garments of deliverance and victory. Isaiah declares that he will continue his efforts on her behalf until she is vindicated in the eyes of the nations and receives their acclaim; he entreats the celestial watchmen on Jerusalem’s walls to constantly remind G-d of her until He restores Zion. Messengers are told to pass through the cities heralding the return of a holy people who will be much sought after. In bold language, Isaiah pictures G-d wearing bloodstained garments returning from single-handed combat with Edom (Israel’s bitter enemy) symbolizing that He Himself will take vengeance on the foe. The prophecy ends with a prayer of thanksgiving to G-d who, showing love and pity, will redeem Israel.
Parashah Study Questions
- What is the connection between the verse “atem nitzavim” and the curses in the previous parashah? Why is this considered an encouragement (29:12)?
- The commentaries say the phrase “The hidden things are for Hashem, our G-d, and the revealed things are for us.” This refers to collective culpability for “open” sins, but not for “hidden” ones (29:28). Does Judaism believe in collective punishment?
- Where is the Torah not to be found? Where is it to be found (30:12-15)? What does this mean?
- What actions should be increased during the month of Elul? Which activities should be avoided?
- If Rosh Hashanah is the Yom Hadin (the Day of Judgment) and Yom Kippur is the Day of Repentance, why is there such a celebratory atmosphere on Rosh Hashanah – Judgment Day!?