Weekly Reading Insights:
Overview of the Torah Reading
To be read on Shabbat Nitzavim, Shabbat Mevarchim,
28 Elul 5782/Sep.24, 2020
Torah: Deut. 29:9-30:20
Haftorah: Isaiah 61 (7th of the Seven Haftorahs of Consolation)
Pirkei Avot: Chapter 5,6
Nitzavim is the 8th
Reading out of 11 in Deuteronomy and it contains 2575 letters, in 657
words, in 40 verses
Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20)
opens with G-d making a covenant with the Jews, establishing them as His nation.
He tells them that if they stray from the Torah, evil will befall them, but
that when they return they will be rewarded with blessings, and will be returned
to their land. G-d sets before them the choice between good and evil, but warns
them to stay away from evil.
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, Director of Ascent
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This week's Torah portion of Nitzavim ("you are standing')
is always read on the Shabbat preceding Rosh Hashanah, our Day of Judgment.
There are a few lessons we can learn from this.
The main message of Nitzavim, in relation to the upcoming New Year, is found
in its first verse, which begins, "You are standing today, all
of you, before G-d, your L-rd". The simple explanation is that Moshe
is speaking to the Jewish people who were gathered together just before they
were to enter the land of Israel. On a more personal and deeper level, the Torah
is speaking to each of us now. The words hint to the Jewish people standing
together ready to be judged just before Rosh Hashanah. "You are standing"
refers to all of the Jewish people - not just our numerical quantity, but also
every aspect, every level, spiritual and physical, within us from the most revealed
to the most sublime and hidden. As the verse continues, "
your tribes, your elders, your police, every Jewish person, your children, your
wives, the strangers in your midst, your tree cutters until your water carriers".
We are all, no matter where we are spiritually, standing strong and confident,
certain that the Almighty will judge us favorably.
On every Shabbat which precedes the beginning of a new month, it is the custom
in each synagogue that the congregation blesses the new month. The blessing
is, "May the Holy One Blessed Be He, renew it for us and all His people,
the House of Israel, for life and for peace, for gladness and for joy, for deliverance
and for consolation, and let us say Amen". The Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah
(Rosh Hashanah is not just the beginning of the year, it is the beginning of
the new month of Tishrei) is the exception.
The Baal Shem Tov  taught that instead of the congregation,
it is G- d who actually blesses the month of Tishrei (the month of the High
Holidays), and it is through His blessing that we, the Jewish people, are given
the strength to bless every other month of the year. What is G-d's blessing?
"You are standing today." Jewish unity! What is today? "Today"
is Rosh Hashanah and, most important, that the judgment will be good.
On the verse "You are standing today before G-d", the Chozeh of Lublin
 asks "How can we, a mortal creation, stand before
the awesome and infinite Almighty G-d? This is a hint to us that repentance
is higher than all of the commandments, because it fixes all the commandments
which were not done correctly. That is why the verse says "You are standing
before the 'name of G-d'", which is the source of all the commandments.
This is what is expected of us, to examine ourselves and rectify our negative
actions, until we exist on a plane that is above the world and before the revelation
of G-d connected to the world. Then all the blemishes created by our misdeeds
will disappear. Even if we just correct one negative behavior we can achieve
The Shelah  writes that repentance is related to the
sefira of binah, (understanding), one of the threeintellectual qualities
within each one of us - literally, our knowledge of ourselves, unadulterated
by all of the influences of the world. Even though everyone will say, "You're
fine." Don't believe them! The beginning is to take a fresh look.
How we behave on this Shabbat is going to have a great effect on all of the
coming year. Rosh means "head", literally, the head of the year. Just
as the head controls the body, how we act on the "head of the year"
controls all of the physical and spiritual blessings we will be receiving for
the coming year. And that strength comes from the Shabbat before. We must resolve
to not waste a minute of this precious Shabbat, but also to begin before Shabbat
to plan where we will be, with who we will be, and how we will spend our time
so that we will utilize this Shabbat to the maximum.
A Jew once came to visit the grand rabbi Rebbe Yisrael of Ruzhin
, seeking a plan on how he could return to the Jewish fold, to the
service of G-d. The Rebbe invested time in setting him up with a unique daily
schedule and specific instructions on how to fix his inappropriate actions.
When the visitor heard all of this he began to object that he has his own personal
needs and time requirements and other pressing responsibilities and that the
program that the Rebbe was suggesting was just not convenient at all.
Rebbe Yisrael answered him as follows, "Repentance has to be done exactly
the way we do our sins. When a person does a sin, he doesn't take any time to
consider that what he is doing is going to make him lose his portion in the
World to Come. This is exactly how we are supposed to return to G-d: without
considering that perhaps through it we will lose some of the pleasures of this
Shabbat Shalom and with sincere wishes for a very good, sweet
& healthy new year, Shaul
Baal Shem Tov "Master of the Good Name" also known by the acronym
BESHT. Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer. 1698-1760. Founder of Chassidism.
 Yaakov Yitzchak HaLevi Horowitz, known as "the Seer of Lublin",
ha-Chozeh MiLublin. c.1745-1815. A leading figure in the early Chassidic movement,
he became known as the "seer" or "visionary" due to his
purported ability to gaze across great distance by supernatural means.
 Rabbi Isaiah HaLevi Horowitz. 1560 - 1630. Served for many years as chief
rabbi in Frankfurt and then Prague, his birthplace. In 1621 he moved to Israel
and became the chief rabbi of Jerusalem. He is best known as the author of SheneiLuchot
HaBrit, a work of biblical commentary and Jewish law, and is usually referred
to as "the SHeLaH", the acronym of its title.
 Rabbi Yisrael Friedman of Ruzhin. 1796-1850. A chasidic rebbe who conducted
his court with regal pomp and splendor. He attracted thousands of chasidim,
provided for the chasidic community in Israel, and inaugurated the construction
of the Tiferet Yisrael synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem
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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading,
see the archive.
THE SAGES OF KABBALAH ON KabbalaOnline.org
Specifically, for an overview
of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists,
and more, click to Netzavim
Holy Heart of Times to Come
From Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman's commentary on the Torah
"And the Eternal, your G-d, will circumcise your heart."
Lust and desire are the
"foreskin" of the heart; circumcision of the heart means that it will
not covet or desire evil. In the days of the Mashiach, the choice of
genuine good will be natural; the heart will not desire what is improper. Man
will return at that time to what he was before the sin of Adam when there were
no conflicting desires in his will.
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