Nitzavim 5772 – Gilayon #766


SHABBAT SHALOM


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Parshat Nitzavim-Vayelech

You stand this day. All of you before the lord

your god – your tribal heads, your elders and your officials,all

men of israel,your children,your

wives, even the stranger within your camp, from the woodchopper to the waterdrawer.

(Deuteronomy 29:9-10)

 

Open

reproof is better than concealed love (Proverbs 27:5)

King

Solomon, may he rest in peace, informed us in his book, of the principles of

reproof, and taught us that life is dependent on reprimanding, and death is

impending on he that rejects criticism. Life is dependent on criticism, as it

is written in Proverbs (6:23)

"The

way to life is the rebuke that disciplines." Also in Proverbs (10:17) – "He who follows

discipline, shows the way to life." And it is also written, (Proverbs 15:4) – "A healing

tongue is a tree of life", meaning that the healing tongue is the

reproof, and the tree of life, while death bands together with the one that

rejects reproof. As it is written, (Proverbs 10:17) – "He who follows

discipline shows the way to life, but he who ignores reproof leads astray."

He who leads astray and transgresses the Torah, even for awhile, but does not

reject criticism, will be judged as having bad judgment of ethics, on the hope

that he will return from his evils ways, but he that will not accept criticism,

will be judged harshly, because he will not change and be sentenced to death.

Love of criticism is a sign and an omen for righteous deeds, and rejection of

criticism is indicative of a bad nature and moral degeneration. On this it is

written, (Proverbs

9:8) – "Do

not rebuke a scoffer, for he will hate you; Reprove a wise man and he will love

you." This

proves to his fellow man that it is worth revealing his true conscience and not

worth flattering him, just supporting him when he is right, and negating him

when appropriate. So we see that a righteous man and evil man are the opposite

of each other. He that steers away from an evil path is not righteous until he

proves his righteousness. In the same way that the evil one, is on the other

end of the spectrum and the righteous one on the opposite end, he who returns

is in the middle, until he proves the true intentions of his deed and actions,

for that is the meaning of reproof. King Solomon suggests that open reproof is

superior to hidden love. A true friend who tells his colleagues the hard truths

to his face is better than one who secretly loves his friend but refrains from

telling him the truth.

(Introduction of Rabenu Hai for Parshat Nitzavim)

 

 

Moses'

final speech

Elad Kaplan

The end of the journey is approaching. Moses

looks around at the multitudes of the Children of Israel. He reminisces about

the long way they have come, from bringing them out of the desert up to the

border of the Promised Land. He is fear stricken, not for his own fate, but for

these multitudes that have united under his leadership. After 40 years of "labor

pains", the People of Israel are born as a nation, and are ready to go out

to the big world. They will have to cope with their own powers, without his

leadership.

Moses is hoarse from his long speech. He has

lain out before the people the long way they have come and the covenant of

destiny and fate that they will share in the future. But this is not enough. He

is stumbling in the dark, searching, for the appropriate words for the Grand

Finale that will be inscribed in the hearts of his believers:

You stand this day. All

of you before the lord your god – your tribal heads, your elders and your

officials, all men of israel,your children,your

wives, even the stranger within your camp, from the woodchopper to the waterdrawer. (Deuteronomy 29:9-10)

Deuteronomy 30:15;" See, I set before

you upon this day life and prosperity, death and adversity", he says

to them in simple words. In a rare moment of unity, the people are asked to

choose their destiny. During his speech, Moses set forth the opportunities of

goodness and warned of the consequences of evil. He repeats the parable of the

carrot and the stick. "I command you this day, to love the Lord your

God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments, his laws and His rules"

Deut 30:16. He commands, in an almost paradoxical way, the mitzvah to

sublimate the emotion of love as a catalyst to do good.

He repeats and emphasizes that the people will not endure in the land, if they

do not adhere to the ethics, morals and justice that he has proposed for them.

The covenant is not only for those present. (Deut 29:13) I make this

covenant, not with you alone, but both with those who are standing here with us

today…and with those who are not with us today." Our responsibility

is not with the here and now, but with history and the future, with advancement

and enlightenment. Moses presents the people with this simple proposal in a

complex world. While Judaism leaves space for diversity and different world

views, that may be contradictory, there is still a place for a simple, moral

imperative with the ability to differentiate good and evil.

For a brief moment, Moses stops and looks at the

people thirsting for his guidance. He identifies the sparkle in their eyes and

feels they are ready to follow him, but their strong will is tempered by their

trepidation of the future dangers. There is silence. Everyone is waiting to

hear if there are any more words of wisdom from their admired leader, before he

hands over the leadership to Yehoshua Ben Nun, who

will lead them into the land.

Moses looks sideways to give way to the new

leaders and introduce them to the people, but he freezes on the spot. He stands

still and breathes deeply. His speech will not end here. The choice between

good and evil, the blessing and the curse, are important but not enough. Beyond

the promises and the threats, there is something deeper – a true desire to steer

the people on a worthy course. The choice of this path is not determined by

outside influences but on the inner truth that is found in everyone.

"I call on heaven and earth to witness

against you this day. I have put before you life and death, blessing and curses"

(Deut

30:19). He

reiterates. The words are similar to what he said but this time we doesn't warn

or threat. He shows them the way. All the possibilities are available for you

to choose and the heavens and earth themselves are witness to what they choose.

This time "good" and "evil" are not

mentioned. This is no longer a matter of black and white. "And you

shall choose life". Moses ends the sentence with part request, part

prayer.

In this "encore" the commands

disappear. Moses repeats what he has said but in a softer and more engaging tone (Deut

30:20): "By

loving the Lord your God, heeding His commandments and holding fast to Him. For

thereby, you shall have life and shall endure". This

time he does not command love, but hopes and aspires. "For thereby you shall have life and shall long endure upon

the soil that the Lord your God swore to your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and

Jacob, to give them".

Moses ends his speech

with full faith that even if they are not always on the right path, the people

of Israel

will give him "naches."

Elad

Kaplan is Director of the Political and Legal Policy Desk of the organization

ITIM.

 

 

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