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Nitzavim/Vayelech • 5773 • נצבים־וילך
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. Joshua, he declared, 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 good courage 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 on the Feast of Tabernacles, at the end of each Sabbatical year, to the Israelites assembled at the Central Sanctuary. 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 besidethe 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 Zion until He restores it. 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
1. Why is Slichot recited on Saturday night after Shabbat is over? Why late at night?
2. How many Slichot services are held according to Sefardi and Ashkenazi tradition?
3. How many times before Rosh Hashanah is Slichot recited in the week?
4. Doesn’t it seem more logical to continue reciting Slichot throughout the Ten Days of Repentance?
5. Why did the rabbis arranged the Torah reading to be so short the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah?
6. What, when and why is the Fast of Gedaliah?