Nitzavim 5772 – Gilayon #766
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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.
reproof is better than concealed love (Proverbs 27:5)
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)
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
9:8) – "Do
not rebuke a scoffer, for he will hate you; Reprove a wise man and he will love
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)
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
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"
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
In this "encore" the commands
disappear. Moses repeats what he has said but in a softer and more engaging tone (Deut
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
will give him "naches."
Kaplan is Director of the Political and Legal Policy Desk of the organization