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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.


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