The Torah Portion of Nitzavim
THE MONTH OF COMPASSION AND FORGIVENESS
Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
"You are standing this day..." (Devorim 29:9)
The congregation of Israel is similar to a day; just as a day begins in darkness and afterwards there is light, so for Israel, in the beginning there is the darkness of exile and afterwards there will be light -- lightness and happiness and redemption speedily in our days, Amen.
"You ..." (Devorim 29:9)
The first word of this week's Torah Portion in Hebrew is "Atem" (in English: "You"). The word "Atem" has three letters: Aleph, Tav, and Mem. These are the same letters which are found in the Hebrew word "Emet" (in English: "Truth"). If you behave truthfully with one another, and don't lie to each other, then all of you will be "standing", alive and well. Also, the three letters of the word "Atem" (Aleph, Tav, and Mem) hint to what the Sages said that "Three books are opened on Rosh Hashana, a book for Tzaddikim (Righteous people), a book for Beinonim (Intermediate people), and a book for Reshaim (Wicked people). The "Aleph" hints about the Righteous people, because it is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The "Tav" hints about the Wicked people, because it is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The "Mem" hints about the Intermediate people because it is in the middle of the Hebrew alphabet.
"You are standing this day, all of you, before Hashem Elokaichem..." (Devorim 29:9)
When will you merit to be stable and standing? If you will be in a united group. And that is why it says "all of you". (from Yalkut) In the book "Yalkut Me'am Loez", a story is brought about an old man who said to his sons before his death: "Bring me a bundle of sticks". Then he asked them: "Who is able to break the bundle?" Each one of them took the bundle of sticks and was not able to break it. Their father said to them, "I am able to break it." The sons wondered how that could be possible, since he was old and his strength had waned and how could he succeed when they hadn't succeeded? He took the bundle and separated out the sticks one by one and broke them. He said to them: "This is what I wanted to hint to you. If you will be all of you in one group then no one will be able to do you any harm. But if you will be separated, then destructive forces will be able to rule over you."
"...every man of Israel." (Devorim 29:9)
Every man of Israel is important and has special qualities. It is told about the Tzaddik (Righteous man) HaRashab, that once a diamond merchant came to him and asked the Tzaddik why he praised a particular person, since he (the diamond merchant) didn't see any special qualities in that man. The Tzaddik was quiet and didn't answer him. Afterwards the Tzaddik requested that the diamond merchant show him the diamonds. The merchant put the diamonds on the table, and told the Tzaddik that a particular diamond was very important. The Tzaddik told him that he didn't see in that diamond anything which would make it superior to the other diamonds. The merchant told him, in diamonds one needs to be an expert in order to understand them. The Tzaddik answered him, also in regards to a Jewish person, one needs to be an expert to understand him -- every Jew is crowned with great qualities. (from M'orah Shel Torah)
"And it will be that when he hears the words of this oath, he will bless himself in his heart, saying, 'I will have peace though I go as my heart sees fit'..." (Devorim 29:18)
The head of the Yeshiva "Porat Yosef", HaRav Yehuda Tzadka ztz"l would say that when it is written in the Torah Portion "...he will bless himself in his heart, saying, 'I will have peace'...", this is a hint about the Chilonim (non-religious Jews) who say that the main point is the heart. The Rav Shalom Shwadron ztz"l would give an analogy which is similar to this situation. Someone entered a hospital and saw a person lying there without arms or legs and groaning, and asked him "What do the doctors say about your heart?" The patient answered him, "They say that my heart is healthy". The man said to the patient, "If so, why are you groaning, since your heart is healthy?" And a wise person will understand the analogy.
"The hidden things are for Hashem Elokainu, but the revealed things are for us and for our children forever, to carry out all the words of this Torah" (Devorim 29:28)
The Sages said: "Why isn't the reward for the Mitzvot (commandments) revealed?" The answer is, so that people will not choose among the Mitzvot. A person might say that one particular MItzvah is more worthwhile, and abandon other Mitzvot. There are only two Mitzvot for which the reward is revealed: sending away the mother bird, and honoring one's father and mother. And that is why this verse says "the hidden things are for Hashem Elokainu" -- all the rest of the Mitzvot are hidden and their reward is not revealed. But sending away the mother bird, is "for us", and honoring faher and mother is "for our children"-- and for those two Mitzvot the reward is revealed. And the reason the reward is not revealed for the rest of the Mitzvot is so that we will "carry out all the words of this Torah", and not choose among the Mitzvot. (from Meforshim)
"The hidden things are for Hashem Elokainu, but the revealed things are for us and for our children..." (Devorim 29:28)
Rabbeinu Bachya writes, "I heard in the name of the Rambam z"l an explanation of the verse "the hidden things are for Hashem Elokainu...", that the secrets of the Torah are hidden and the reason for the Mitzvot is known to Hashem. And if a man merits to know a small bit of the root of a Mitzvah and its basis in the hidden realms, he should not say that he is absolved from that which is openly revealed and refrain from doing the actual physical Mitzvah, for he should not prevent himself from fulfilling it in the the revealed realms, since "the revealed things are for us and for our children forever, to carry out....".
"And it will be that when all these things come upon you -- the blessing and the curse that I have presented before you -- then you will take it to heart..." (Devorim 29:29)
The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh says, that it's possible that the intention of this verse is to show us that which the Sages said: "It's required for a man to bless on the bad just as he blesses on the good", for he needs to accept the bad with happiness in the same way that he is happy about the good. The first word of this verse in Hebrew is "V'haya" (in English: "And it will be"), which is a language that indicates happiness. The verse continues, "that when all these things come upon you", to tell us that we should accept both the blessing and the curse with happiness, because they come together as part of one overall equation (i.e., the blessing and the curse are part of the overall "package deal").
"And Hashem Elokecha will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring..." (Devorim 30:6)
In Hebrew there are four words within this verse, "Et Levavcha V'et Levav" (in English: "your heart and the heart"), which start with the Hebrew letters Aleph, Lamed, Vuv, and Lamed. These four letters spell Elul, the name of the last month of the Jewish year. In the Torah Portion of Eikev, it was written, "And you shall circumcise the foreskin of your heart" (Devorim 10:16), and in this week's Portion it is written "And Hashem Elokecha will circumcise your heart". The Sages say, "Open for me an opening the size of a needle's tip, and I will make an opening for you which is the size of an opening to a large banquet hall". The explanation is that we first need to start, and afterwards Hashem will help. And that is why it is written "And you shall circumcise" (in the Torah Portion of Eikev, which we read a few weeks ago) -- that first you will begin to serve Hashem. And afterwards (in this week's Torah Portion), "Hashem Elokecha will circumcise your heart."
(from Mayana Shel Torah)
"For the matter is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it." (Devorim 30:14)
Why does it say "in your mouth" before it says "in your heart"? The reason is that occasionally the heart doesn't get awakened. And then, beforehand, one needs to express with his mouth the learning and the prayers, and afterwards, his heart will become awakened. (from M'ora Shel Torah)
"For the matter is very near to you..." (Devorim 30:14)
The word "very" in Hebrew is "M'od", which is written with the letters Mem, Aleph, and Daled. These Hebrew letters are the Roshei Teivot (initial letters) of the names of Moshe, Avraham, and David. Someone who wants to succeed in Torah should be lowly in his own eyes, like Moshe, Avraham, and David, for they were all humble men.
"Your heart and the heart..." (Devorim 30:6)
The four initial letters of these word spell the word "Elul" in Hebrew. The Chida adds that the last letters of these words spell "Tikateiv" (in English: "you will write". This is a hint that in Elul we will repent and be written in the book of those who live a good life.
The Torah Portion of Nitzavim has 40 verses. Haftora: "Sos Asis" (Yishayahu 61). This is a "Sium": the last of the 7 Haftoras of Consolation.Pirkei Avot, Chapter 5 and 6.
May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat. Shabbat Shalom.
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772
May you be written and sealed for a Good Year.