Volume 30, Issue 8
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by DovFurer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, The Vilna Gaon, Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin and The Call of the Torah.
אתם נצבים היום
“You are standing today…” (29:9)
QUESTION: It is customary on Motzai Shabbat Parshat Nitzavim to begin reciting Selichot. (We didn’t this year because we didn’t have the minimum requirement of four Selichot before Rosh Hashana) What hint is there for this in the Torah?
ANSWER: The words “Atem nitzavim hayom” – אתם נצבים היום – have the numerical value of 694, which is the same as that of the words עומדים לסליחות – “To rise for Selichot”. (Vedebarta Bam)
ושבת עד ה’
“And you will return unto Hashem…” (30:2)
The Talmud (Yoma86a) observes that the proper expression should have been “v’shavta el – return to,” rather than “v’shavta ad – return unto.” The reason for the word “ad – unto” is to accentuate the ideal purpose of repentance, which is to raise man up spiritually toward G-d, as though to reach Him. R’ Levi said that repentance is supreme for it can reach the majestic throne of G-d. The purest, most perfect form of repentance is one which is born from an unlimited love of G-d and is not based upon fear of retribution. (Teachings of the Talmud)
“That you may live…” (30:6)
The Talmud Yerushalmi (Makkos 2:6) illustrates this idea with a parable featuring the concepts of wisdom and prophecy. When wisdom was asked to suggest the appropriate fate for a sinner, wisdom answered חטאים תרדף רע – evil (punishment) will pursue sinners. When prophecy was asked the same question, it answered הנפש החוטאת היא תמות – the soul who sins shall die. Finally, Hashem was questioned, and He replied יעשה תשובה ויתכפר – let him repent and he will be atoned. Repentance as a remedy for sin defies the normal rules of logic and reason and so it was only Hashem Himself who could make it possible. (Teachings of the Talmud)
ואתה תשוב ושמעת בקול ה’
“You shall return and listen to the voice of Hashem…” (30:8)
There is a dispute in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 97b) as to whether repentance is necessary to ensure the coming of the Messiah. Rambam follows the opinion which considers it essential. He bases his decision on a verse which refers to the end of times and says explicitly ואתה תשוב – you shall return (HilchotTeshuvah 7:5). (Teachings of the Talmud)
לשוש עליך לטוב כאשר שש על אבותיך
“To rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your forefathers…” (30:9)
The Midrash declares that this refers to the period of Esther and Mordechai, when Hashem rejoiced over Israel’s salvation from the evil Haman, just as He rejoiced over Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov (Bereshit Rabbah 53:14).
“And you shall choose life…” (30:19)
According to the plain meaning, our verse is instructing us to choose a life of Torah. However, the verse begins, “I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse,” but ends only with “choose life,” rather than “choose life and blessing.” This indicates that the verse is hinting to an additional meaning of the term life. That is, one should learn a trade to support himself and provide him with “life” (Yerushalmi Kiddushin 1:7). (Teachings of the Talmud)