Skip to main content

Standing Up - Parashat Nitzavim 5779, September 27, 2019

This week’s parasha, Nitzavim, describes Moshe’s inducting b'nei Yisrael into a covenant with Hashem. Moshe Rabbenu begins, “You, all, are standing (nitzavim) here today before the Lord your God. Your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, even all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in the midst of thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water.”

In the course of developing a very interesting theory about the uniqueness of this covenant, Ohr HaChayyim asks two questions on the text of Moshe Rabbenu’s announcement. First, when describing b'nei Yisrael standing in front of Hashem, why does Moshe use the word, nitzavim, as opposed to the more common word, omdim? Second, why does Moshe enumerate each segment of the Jewish People – heads, tribes, elders, officers, etc.?

Ohr HaChayyim begins by defining the word nitzavim more precisely. He explains that the word means standing in the sense of an appointment. Americans have a similar usage for the word “stand”. Americans say that groomsmen “stand” for the groom. This use of “stand” implies an appointment or a responsibility. Moshe uses “stand” in this same sense – he is conveying to b'nei Yisrael that their relationship to this covenant is not casual or even volitional – it is an appointment to a responsibility. Building on this definition, Ohr HaChayyim explains that Moshe Rabbenu details each segment of the society in order to convey that each member of b'nei Yisrael is appointed to the responsibility of fulfilling the covenant at his or her station in life – wherever that may be. If the person is a leader – he should fulfill the covenant by leading. If he is an elder, he should fulfill the covenant as an elder of the society. If the person is a water-drawer, he should fulfill the covenant in that manner. Each person is responsible to fulfill the covenant with Hashem from the perspective of his or her role in society.

Ohr HaChayyim is describing an orientation to the Torah and to mitzvot. It is incumbent upon each of us to ask ourselves what our role is in the community and in k’lal yisrael and to view the fulfillment of that role as an appointment to a task. As we enter Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur and the Ten Days of Repentance, may we successfully identify our role and renew our commitment to fulfilling our appointment.


Popular posts from this blog

Dwelling Securely - Parashat Behar 5779, May 24, 2019

Our seventh and eighth grade students returned this past week from the ten-day Junior High Israel Experience program. Mrs. Anat Kampf, Chazzan Ricky Kampf and I were honored to chaperone this inaugural program, and, on behalf of the students, we are very thankful to the parents, to the community and Lemsky Fund for their support of this endeavor.
Our students soaked up the land, the people and the Torah of Eretz Yisrael. At school, we learn Torah. In Israel, we experienced the Torah. At school we learn about the impact and significance of the State of Israel. In Israel, we experienced the geography, history and people of the State of Israel. In school, we learn Ivrit. In Israel, we spoke Ivrit.
Our students experienced the breadth and depth of the land. They had both an urban experience – sleeping in Yerushalayim for six days – and a more pastoral experience – sleeping in Kibbutz Lavi. They visited sites of destruction and death that now have renewed vitality and significance – the Ko…

The Antidote to Arrogance - Parshat Tazria 5779 - April 5, 2019

This and next week’s parshiyot are called torat hanegaim – the laws related to tzara’at – the Divine Punishment of an “eruption” – a nega – on the home, clothing and/or skin. Tzara'at is not a naturally occurring disease in the sense that its cause is not exposure to disease nor is it communicable. Rather, tzara'at is a Divine Punishment brought on by sin. Rashi explains that this punishment is prominently associated with two sins - lashon hara – sins of speech – and gasot haruach – arrogance.

Some averot – like not eating kosher food or having illicit relationships – typically stem from physical desire. Others – such as not believing in the existence of G-d – can stem from a philosophical mistake. But averot like lashon hara and gasot haruach are members of a unique class of sins. These are sins that stem from a character flaw – a problem in the person’s personality.

In next week’s parasha, Rashi teaches a foundational principle about tzara'at: the process of atonement fo…

Accepting Guidance - Parashat Shemini 5779 - March 29, 2019

This week’s parasha, Shemini, deals with the eighth and final day of the inauguration of the mishkan.
At the beginning of the parasha, the Torah presents a list of korbanot – sacrifices – that are to be offered on this inauguration day. Two of these sacrifices include a command for Aharon to bring a calf as a sin offering and for the People of Israel to bring a goat as a sin offering. Rav Matis Blum, in his sefer, Torah Le’Daat, discusses why, on the final day of the dedication of the mishkan, there was a command to offer not one, but two, sin offerings – Aharon’s calf and B’nei Yisrael’s goat.
Maimonides, in his Guide to the Perplexed, suggests reasons why specific animals were commanded to be offered in the mishkan and in the beit hamikdash. In discussing the calf and the goat as sin offerings, HaRambam explains that each of these animals has an association with a previous sin of the Jewish People. The Rambam suggests that the calf is connected to the sin of the Golden Calf. On this …