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.

An Essay from
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, "…heads of 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 [1] 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 [2] 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 this.

The Shelah [3] 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 [4], 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 world!"

Shabbat Shalom and with sincere wishes for a very good, sweet & healthy new year, Shaul

[1]Baal Shem Tov "Master of the Good Name" also known by the acronym BESHT. Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer. 1698-1760. Founder of Chassidism.
[2] 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.
[3] 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.
[4] 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.


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

one sample:

Mystical Classics

The 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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