by OZER ALPORT
הנסתרת לה’ אלקינו והנגלת לנו ולבנינו עד עולם לעשות את כל דברי התורה הזאת
“The hidden sins are for Hashem our G-d, but the revealed sins are for us and our children forever, to carry out all the words of this Torah.” (Devarim 29:28)
In discussing the difference between sins performed privately and those which are public knowledge, the Torah writes the words לנו ולבנינו – for us and for our children – with dots on top of each letter, something which is done quite rarely. Although there are complex legal rules for interpreting the meaning of these dots whenever they occur (see Rashi), the Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan finds a beautiful symbolic message in this anomaly.
The Chofetz Chaim notes that when writing a book or a letter, an author who wants to stress or draw attention to a certain phrase or point will draw attention to it by underlining the salient words. Similarly, when discussing the importance of educating our children and raising them with proper values and outlooks, the Torah saw no more fitting way to do so than to place dots on the words referring to us and our children, essentially “underlining” these words. G-d did this to emphasize the unparalleled significance in Judaism of teaching our children to be proper G-d-fearing Jews.
The following story shows just how far this lesson can be taken. One year on the night of Kol Nidrei, the most awe-inspiring night in the Jewish calendar, the Jews of Grodna, a large community then part of the Russian empire, were all assembled in the town’s great synagogue, ready to begin the solemn services. Only one critical element was conspicuously absent: Rabbi Binyomin Diskin, renowned for his punctuality, was nowhere to be seen. After waiting several tense minutes, a delegation was dispatched to his house to find out what the delay was. Upon arriving at the house of their beloved Rabbi, fearing for the worst, they were shocked when they peered through the window and observed him calmly seated by the table, studying together with his young son, seemingly oblivious to the date and to the entire congregation that was anxiously awaiting him in the synagogue. Seizing up his courage, one of the elders of the community knocked and gently explained that the congregation was concerned about his uncharacteristic delay. Understanding that they were seeking an explanation for his behavior, the elderly Rabbi explained that with the arrival of the day on which a person’s fate for the upcoming year is sealed, he found himself nervous about his lack of merits. Desperately seeking to accrue mitzvot which could tip the scale in his favor, he could think of no greater merit than teaching Torah to his young son, who (not surprisingly) grew up to become the saintly Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin!
The lesson for us is clear. Parshat Nitzavim is read annually close to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. At the time when the entire world passes before G-d in judgment, the Torah goes out of its way to uncharacteristically “underline” a phrase to emphasize to us the importance of looking after our children and raising them properly. Indeed, our Rabbis teach that a person is judged and held responsible not only for his own actions, but also for those of his descendants (to the extent that he could have influenced them to behave otherwise). At this critical time, let us remember the Chofetz Chaim’s message.
Overcoming Insurmountable Obstacles
by RABBI BINYOMIN ADLER
כי המצוה הזאת אשר אנכי מצוך היום לא נפלאת הוא ממך ולא רחקה הוא
… כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאד בפיך ובלבבך לעשתו
“For this commandment that I command you today – It is not hidden from you and it is not distant…Rather, the matter is very near to you.” (Devarim 30: 11-14)
In this week’s parsha, Nitzavim, it is said (Devarim 30:11-14): “For this commandment that I command you today – It is not hidden from you and it is not distant. It is not in heaven, [for you] to say, ‘Who can send to the heaven for us and take it for us, so that we can listen to it and perform it?’ Nor is it across the sea, [for you] to say, ‘Who can cross to the other side of the sea for us and take it for us, so that we can listen to it and perform it?’ Rather, the matter is very near to you – in your mouth and your heart – to perform it.” Nachmanides (Ramban) understands that these verses refer to the mitzvah of Teshuvah, repentance. Thus, the Torah is informing us that this mitzvah is not beyond our capabilities. Rather, one can perform the mitzvah of Teshuvah in any place and at any time.
One must wonder why the Torah needs to elaborate on the mitzvah of Teshuvah by stating that the mitzvah is not distant, is not in the heavens and is not on the other side of the sea. Would it not have been sufficient to state that one should repent and that it is simple to do so? Why is it necessary for the Torah to dramatize the difficulties that one may face when attempting to perform the mitzvah of Teshuvah?
The story is told of a man who was walking in Tel Aviv when he was approached by a religious man who was seeking a tenth man to complete a minyan, a quorum for prayer. The man kept walking, but the religious man ran after him, pestering him to help out until he finally acquiesced. Upon entering the shul (synagogue), the non-religious man watched with fascination as the men recited Ashrei and Kaddish, and then all the men began swaying back and forth while reciting the Shmoneh Esrei (The Amidah prayer). The man, who had never witnessed such behavior before, was fascinated by what he saw, started to attend services on a regular basis, and over the course of time, eventually became fully observant. Friends of his father who had heard the story about the son and his religious transformation wanted to confirm the story with the father. The father confessed that there was more to the story than met the eye. “The truth is,” said the father, “my father was religious back in Europe and had subsequently made his way to Tel Aviv. I, however, left the path of my father and raised my son without religious observance. The shul where my son entered for the very first time in his life was the very same shul in which my father used to pray. I honestly believe that it was in the merit of my father’s prayers that my son was drawn back there, and that is what led him to follow his grandfather’s path.”
In describing the challenges a person may face in an effort to repent, the Torah is perhaps teaching us that one may find the process daunting. From a logical perspective, the various environmental obstacles may indeed make repentance appear to be insurmountable. The verse therefore informs us that G-d can make our seemingly insurmountable obstacles disappear, with Teshuvah being literally close – i.e. easily achievable. During this time of year when Jews traditionally stop to reflect on their commitment to Jewish study and observance, it is encouraging to know that G-d is, so to speak, “there for us” to help us overcome whatever obstacles we face on the path of spiritual growth – social, financial, familial or geographical. These challenges may seem too far-fetched or difficult for us. Nothing, however, is beyond G-d.
Achieving one’s true desire is close at hand
by RABBI LABEL LAM
כי המצוה הזאת אשר אנכי מצוך היום לא נפלאת הוא ממך ולא רחקה… כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאד בפיך ובלבבך
“For this commandment that I command you today, it is not hidden from you and it is not distant… Rather, the matter is very near to you, in your mouth and your heart, to perform it.” (Devarim 30:11-14)
Moses’ words to the Jewish people in the above verses are certainly encouraging—except for one important detail: The Torah does not explicitly mention which commandment is not hidden and near to perform.
Nachmanides says the verse refers to the commandment of repentance, based on the previous ten verses which describe the Jewish people’s eventual repentance and redemption (see Devarim 30:1-10).
Rashi says the commandment in question is the obligation to study the wisdom of our heritage. The verse states that the Torah is “not in heaven,” beyond the grasp of ordinary individuals. Rather, it is accessible to each individual on his or her own level of understanding.
Whether we interpret the verse according to Rashi or Nachmanides, it is clear the theme is that the process of growth and self-improvement is close at hand and easily within our grasp.
For most people, the goal of achieving true self-improvement is anything but easy or near. Ask anyone who has tried to lose weight or change a bad habit. This is all the more true when the changes are spiritual. According to the Kli Yakar commentary, there is an even deeper issue involved. When a person commits himself to embarking on a new spiritual path, he is often plagued by fears that, given how far he has strayed, his plans to change will fail. The verse stresses that the ability to recreate ourselves is “in your mouth and in your heart to perform it.” As soon as we resolve to make positive changes, then what once seemed a remote possibility is within our grasp.
I was a recent college grad living and working in New York City. For some reason, regardless of where I had spent Friday night, Saturday mornings found me in a small Midtown synagogue. Sitting in the back, I’d read the archaic “thy’s” and “thou’s.” I never knew what page we were on, but I stood and sat when everyone else did.
The siddur tickled my imagination. I’d glance at the Hebrew side wondering what it really said. One weeknight I turned on my desk lamp, and with trepidation opened up to page one of Genesis and started to read in Hebrew for the first time since my bar mitzvah. “Bereishit… bara… Elokim.” The words crawled out from my mouth, and by the time I finished the first verse, my heart was pounding wildly—but not in pain. It was actually pleasant!
That simple reading exercise triggered an inner ovation. My soul had been patiently waiting for me to say those words of Torah. I was intrigued. The words I read with my mouth opened up new avenues in my heart, which led me to act on my newfound inspiration. What I thought was far had become very close indeed.
As we draw close to the High Holidays, the notion of instituting major life changes seem too daunting to even consider. Not only is it difficult to imagine our “new selves,” it’s equally difficult to actually take the steps required to recreate ourselves in that image.
This week’s portion teaches us that renewing our path in life in ways that reflect our true desires is not really distant at all. It is as close as our heart wants it to be.
by RABBI YOAV DRUYAN
כי המצוה הזאת אשר אנכי מצוך היום לא נפלאת הוא ממך ולא רחקה הוא
… כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאד בפיך ובלבבך לעשתו
“This mitzvah that I command you today is not too far removed from you and it is not too distant. It is not in the heavens … It is not across the ocean … it is very near to you; [it is] in your mouth and in your heart to perform it.” (Devarim 30:11-14)
It is not in the heavens and it is not across the ocean — so where is it?
There’s obviously a deeper message being conveyed here than might be obvious at first glance. Would anyone really have thought the Torah was in the heavens or across the ocean? We may also ask why the Torah uses these two specific settings, the heavens and across the oceans, to teach us this lesson. Why not up a high mountain or in a deep valley?
The skies and the oceans are two of the world’s most defining natural barriers. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (a 19th century scholar) teaches that these two destinations allude to very specific and very common doubts that we tend to have. The Torah’s high standards for ethics, morality, and religious observance may seem beyond our grasp. Being intimidated by the sheer number of commandments could lead some to assert that the Torah’s standards are reserved for those highly spiritual souls — people “in the heavens” — those select few who don’t have to deal with man’s everyday challenges.
Others may focus on their personal circumstances and believe that specific commandments are too difficult for them to observe. “I might be able to follow these laws if I were living in a different time and place. Not where I live, and not in the 21st century!”
To counter these thoughts, the Torah emphasizes that the mitzvot are “not in the heavens,” they’re for us! You need not be an ascetic to observe the commandments. Nor is it across the sea, applicable in only a unique set of circumstances. It is very near and imminently accomplished.
We are still left with the question of how we can achieve this lofty goal. Perhaps it is the last verse that addresses this question. The Torah is described as being very near. “It is in your mouth and in your heart to perform it.”
The Torah is teaching a fundamental lesson here. As humans, we sometimes tell ourselves that the commandments are too difficult or too elusive; that we are incapable of doing this or that. We can also convince ourselves that G-d expects us to be in the heavens — to achieve some obviously unrealistic goal. However, the words we use can bring us up or bring us down.
The heart of every Jew inherently desires a connection with G-d and yearns to do the right thing. It also knows that G-d does not expect us to go straight for the heavens. But if we allow our mouth to express pessimism, our heart may be deterred from making the effort. Instead, if our mouths say “we can!” our hearts will surely follow suit.
For Discussion Around the Shabbat Table
Parshat Nitzavim begins on the last day of Moses’ life, as he was about to formally transfer leadership to Joshua, who would lead the Jewish people in the conquest of the Promised Land. Moses gathered the entire Jewish people — all strata of society — and again entered them into the covenant with G-d (Devarim 29:9, Rashi). One element of this new covenant was that upon crossing the Jordan River, the Jewish people would become fully responsible to ensure that each individual in the nation would not sin. However, this responsibility extended only to sins committed publicly, while private sins would be judged by G-d (Devarim 29:28 and Rashi).
- The Jews already had a covenant with G-d. Though Moses was the intermediary between G-d and the Jewish people, the covenant was not based on Moses’ continued leadership. Why, then, would the death of Moses require a new covenant between the Jewish people and G-d?
- Since it is impossible for anyone to know what sins another person commits in private, what possible basis could the Jewish people have had for thinking that they would be responsible for such sins?
On the day of his passing, Moses gathered the Jewish people together to enter them into a covenant with G-d. He warned them about the exile they would face when they would abandon G-d’s mitzvot, but he promises them that eventually they will do teshuvah—they will repent—and then G-d will return them to their land.
- Moses reminded the people of the detestable and abominable idols which they saw in Egypt and other lands through which they passed. Why was it necessary to warn them (Devarim 29:17) against worshipping these idols, if they themselves had witnessed how deplorable they were?
- Maimonides writes (Hilchot Chagiga3:1) that the purpose of gathering the people together to hear the reading of the book of Devarim (31:11) is to strengthen their religious commitment and fear of G-d. With such important objectives, why is this mitzvah performed only once every seven years and not annually?
At the conclusion of Moses’ exhortations to the Jewish people, as he is about to leave, he stresses the importance of staying true to the Torah’s teachings and the possible disastrous consequences of disobeying them. He says, “I have placed before you the blessing and the curse; choose life that you and your offspring shall live” (Devarim 30:9).
Why does the verse prompt us to choose life? Isn’t it sufficient that the two choices and their consequences are clearly spelled out? What else would we be tempted to choose?
The end of the verse tells us that the consequence of life is that “you and your offspring shall live.” Isn’t it obvious that you will live if you choose life? What additional message is being taught here?
Jumping Points for Discussion and Further Study
by RABBI ELAZAR MEISELS
DON’T FORGET THE CHILDREN
“You are standing today…before Hashem your G-d…your elders…your small children…for you to pass into the covenant of G-d…” Devarim 29:9-11
Your Small Children – Although as minors they could not technically participate in the covenant, Moses insisted they too be present to impress upon the parents that not only did they have to live up to the covenant, but they were responsible to educate their children in its tenets, as well – Sforno- Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno, 1475-1550
“Our sages taught, a father is obligated to teach his son Torah…” – Talmud-Tractate Kiddushin 29a
A father is obligated to hire a tutor for his son [if he is unable to teach him for whatever reason] and if a father neglected his duties, the son must teach himself once he grows older. – Rambam -Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:2,3
A covenant forged with adults alone, lacking a provision mandating that the children be similarly educated, would be virtually meaningless, as recent history has so vividly demonstrated. Sadly, this lesson has been lost on many in the Jewish community who spend inordinate amounts of money constructing museums commemorating the past, instead of supporting day schools to ensure the future. There is no greater gift a parent can give a child than a meaningful Jewish education.
“The latter generation will say – your children who will arise after you and the stranger who will come from a distant land; and they will see the plagues of that Land and its illnesses that G-d has inflicted upon it.” Devarim 29:21
The latter generation will say – These verses speak about those who enter the Land of Israel and eventually learn from its original inhabitants to worship idolatry, an unforgivable sin in the eyes of the Almighty. Such folks will be driven out of the Land with a vengeance. However, rather than rail against the unflinching judgment of the Almighty, the latter generations will appreciate the need for such measures and lay the blame where it belongs: at the feet of the perpetrators. – Rabbi Yosef Bechor Shor
Rabbi Chaim Vital writes that the words, “And the stranger who will come from a distant land,” allude to the Roman Emperor Nero, who came from his distant land to destroy Jerusalem. When he saw the greatness of G-d, he decided against serving as His instrument to destroy Jerusalem, deserted the Roman army and converted to Judaism. One of his descendants was the illustrious Rabbi Meir, a prominent Torah sage quoted thousands of times in the Mishnah and Talmud. Interestingly, the first letters of the Hebrew words in this phrase, “Who will come from a distant land,” are Mem, Yud, Aleph, Reish. Taken together and rearranged, they spell “Meir.”
“If your dispersed will be at the ends of heaven, from there, Hashem, your G-d, will gather you in and from there, He will take you.” Devarim 30:4
“Remember the matter about which I commanded Moses Your servant saying, ‘If you will breach [the commandments that we are bidden to uphold] I will disperse you among the nations. [When] you will return to Me and observe My Mitzvot and fulfill them, if your dispersed ones will be at the edges of the heaven, from there I shall gather them in and I shall transport them to the place that I have chosen to rest My Name there.’” – Sefer Nechemiah 1:8,9
At The Ends Of Heaven – Is there really an “end” to Heaven? Rather, this refers to one who believes that G-d is limited, and the Torah calls such a person “hopelessly lost, or dispersed.” Yet, even this person will return to G-d and His Torah.
These verses speak of the Messianic Era, and assure us that there is no Jew beyond redemption. Even if one is at the “edges of the heaven”, a metaphor for a completely assimilated Jew, it is not beyond G-d’s capacity to help this person find the way back. We are fortunate to live in an era where anyone who desires to return to a life of Torah can do so. Resources abound to assist him in his journey and one can live as a Jew without fear, virtually anywhere Jews are found today. All that’s needed is for one to invest in the time needed to explore, and he too, will merit the realization of this extraordinary prophecy. There’s no need to wait for the Messiah to arrive. Our birthright is waiting to be claimed today.
“And your G-d will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love your G-d wholeheartedly and with all your being, in order that you may live.” Devarim 30:6
Will circumcise your heart – This verse speaks about life in the Messianic Era, when one will no longer crave material pleasure and temptation and will instead naturally be inclined to choose heightened spirituality and greater refinement of character. In man’s current state, the natural purity of heart with which one is born is hampered by the ever-present desire for material goodness. These will be removed through “circumcision” as predicted by the verse. – Ramban
Your heart and the heart of your descendants – The Hebrew for these words is, “Et Levavchah V’et Levav…” The first letters of each word taken together spell Elul, the month that precedes the Days of Awe. The verse hints to the idea that this month is an auspicious time for one to repent, for one who does so can expect Divine assistance in the form of a circumcised heart, which makes it immeasurably easier to serve Him. – Baal HaTurim
Will circumcise your heart – There is so much confusion in the world, and discerning truth is not always simple. Through “circumcision of the heart,” G-d will help us see and perceive truth more clearly, a factor that is critical to making better decisions. – Sforno
Rabbi Yissachar Dov of Belz wondered how the verse can promise that G-d will intervene to assist us in serving Him better when the Talmud writes that “All is in the hands of heaven with the exception of fear of heaven.” He explains that indeed, G-d has no wish to interfere with our spiritual lives, even to pull us in the direction of enhanced Divine servitude. Nevertheless, the nature of a Jew is that when he sins or behaves in discord with his Creator, his heart is heavy, and he is dragged down by it. This ultimately affects his quality of life in numerous ways. Quality of life is certainly an area in which G-d is happy to get involved and for that reason, He will assist us in making better decisions once we show a desire for His assistance.
PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT A GUARANTEE OF FUTURE RESULTS
“See I have set before you today the life and the good, and the death and the evil.” Devarim 30:15
The life and the good…the death and the evil – One is dependent upon the other. If you do good, you will merit life, if you do evil, you will meet death. – Rashi
The life and the good – If good leads to increased life, why didn’t it first say good and then life? One shouldn’t do good to earn life. Rather, one should live to do good. – Kli Yakar
See I have set before you – The decision is entirely up to you. You may choose good or evil and there is no one on earth or in heaven who will compel you in either direction. – Ramban
The word “today” in this context appears to be superfluous. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt”l explains that it symbolizes the idea that each day this decision to pursue good or evil must be made anew. Failure to choose wisely yesterday does not mean that today is already a lost cause. Likewise, today’s success is no indicator of tomorrow’s outcome. Each day a person must reconsider the options and make a wise choice all over again.
Hey, I Never Knew That
by Rabbi Mordechai Becher
“You shall choose life…” (Devarim 30:19). The Talmud understands this as the obligation to teach one’s child a trade so that he has the ability to support himself (Jerusalem Talmud, Kiddushin 19a). Rabbi Hirsch explains that a father’s obligation to his son is to give him the means to “choose life” in the most complete sense of the word: teach him Torah to mentally and spiritually equip him for life, and a trade to physically and economically equip him for life (Horeb, par. 551-552). Rabeinu Yonah sees this verse as an exhortation to choose to perform a mitzvah, rather than do a mitzvah by rote or habit (Shaarei Teshuvah 3:17).
“And when all these things befall you, the blessing and curse… you will take it to your heart among all the nations where the L-rd your G-d, has dispersed you” (Devarim 30:1). The Torah speaks about the Jewish people in exile, dispersed among the nations, eventually returning to the Torah, repenting, and then being redeemed. It is interesting to note that atonement and forgiveness are possible without sacrifices, without a Temple, and without “blood.” This is a clear refutation of those who have claimed throughout history that since we have no sacrifices today, we have no possibility of atonement. In fact, the entire book of Jonah (read on Yom Kippur) is a testimony to this idea. The people of Nineveh are saved from destruction by repentance, not by sacrifice. As stated in Jonah, “And let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to G-d; let them turn everyone from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands… And G-d saw their actions; that they turned from their evil way; and G-d refrained from the evil, which He said that He would do to them…” (Jonah 3:8-10).
Word of the Week
by RABBI MORDECHAI BECHER
“Peace will be with me though I walk בשרירות —b’sherirut my heart” (Devarim 29:18). Rashi translates this as “my heart sees fit,” and connects שרירות—sherirut to אשורנו—ashureinu (Bamidbar 24:17) which means “I will see him.” Onkelos, however, translates the term as the “thoughts of my heart” and Yonatan ben Uziel as “the [evil] desires of my heart.” Nachmanides understands the word as meaning “strong” and hence translates the phrase as “my stubborn desires.” Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan cites the Midrash Lekach Tov that interprets the phrase as “remain free in my heart” (The Living Torah).
“When he hears the words of the curse he will התברך — hitbarech in his heart and say, ‘I will have peace….’” (Devarim 29:18). The literal translation of התברך is “bless himself” (Ibn Ezra). Similarly, Rashi explains, “he will think in his heart that he is blessed.” The Targum Yonatan ben Uziel, however, understands it as “he will give up hope” or “he will despair.” Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, based on Rabbi Saadia Gaon, translates it as “he will rationalize” (The Living Torah).
This question may sound silly, but if, as I was taught by my Torah partner, we say a blessing before performing a mitzvah and that repenting is a mitzvah, is there a blessing on repenting? If not, why not?
Have a good New Year,
The short answer to your good question is that there is no such blessing. The long answer attempts to explain why. You are certainly correct about the general rule concerning blessings over mitzvot, and you are equally correct in stating that repentance is a mitzvah. A number of discerning explanations have been given to this question, which actually shed additional light on the unique nature of the commandment to repent. We will cite three of the many reasons given.
(1) There are other exceptions to the general rule that positive commandments which deal with one’s relationship to G-d require blessings. One of them is the commandment to say the Shema. We do not use the familiar formula for a blessing over a mitzvah before we recite the Shema. The reason is that one fulfills the commandment of reciting the Shema only if he does so with proper intent – accepting the yoke of Heaven. Since we are concerned that an individual might say all the words of Shema, but not have the proper intent and as a result not fulfill the commandment, he will thereby make a blessing in vain. So, too, we are concerned that an individual may say all the confessions and formulas when repenting, but not truly make sincere determinations for the future to refrain from the sins that he has committed. Therefore, the Rabbis did not establish a blessing before the act of repentance. [Maharam Shick-Hungary, 19th century]
(2) Another exception to the general rule is the commandment for a robber to return the item he stole. Since the commandment to return the stolen property only comes about if one has violated another commandment in the Torah (do not steal), the Rabbis, who established the practice to recite blessings before commandments, felt that it would be entirely inappropriate to make a blessing on the return of stolen property. Similarly, the commandment to repent only pertains to one who has sinned and violated the Torah’s commandments in the past. As a result, the Rabbis did not establish a blessing before repentance, since this blessing would also be inappropriate. [Rashba-Spain, 13th century]
(3) Others explain that without a commandment to repent, one would still be required to do so, since reason dictates that when one is in violation of the Torah, he should discontinue his sinful ways. Certainly, he has no permission to further violate a Torah commandment, just because he did so once. Therefore, the act of repentance is based on reason, and commandments that are based on reason are another exception to the rule regarding blessings. For example, we do not recite a blessing on the recitation of the Hagadah on Passover, since reason dictates that we should recall and retell the miracles that G-d wrought for the Jewish people by redeeming us from Egypt [R’ Bachaya].
So, Janet, we do not recite a blessing before our attempts to repent, but your question was well-placed. Let us hope that the entire Jewish people repent this Yom Kippur so that we are worthy of seeing Mashiach speedily in our days.
May you and your family have a sweet New Year – filled with good health, prosperity, and Torah.
Parsha at a Glance
Nitzavim opens on the last day of Moses’ life, on which he formalized a new covenant between the Jewish people and G-d. This covenant was in force not only for the generation about to enter the Land of Israel, but also for all generations to come.
This covenant included some new elements that had not been present before, including the idea that the members of the Jewish nation are responsible for the spiritual well-being of their fellow Jews. While hidden sins are for G-d to address, those sins which take place in public must be rectified. The nation is not permitted to simply “live and let live.” Doing so is in fact a formula for individual – and national – disaster and ruin.
Moses next prophesied the eventual repentance and redemption that the Jewish people will experience at the end of days – after the many trials and tribulations, exiles and oppressions they will face over the course of history. G-d will see that the nation has returned to Him with all of their heart and all of their soul, and He will respond in kind by bringing the Jewish people back to their Land and showering them with renewed blessings.
The Jewish people entered into a covenant that compelled them to keep the Torah in its entirety and to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that each individual does the same. However, Moses reassured the people that this is not an impossible task. The Torah is not something that is only meant for the elite, nor is it something far away from each individual. Rather, it is something that is understandable to, holds meaning for, and must be studied by every Jewish person according to his own level.
Nitzavim concludes with Moses exhorting the nation to understand that G-d placed a free-will choice before them at this time – life and good, and death and curse. Choose life, Moses declared, so that they could enjoy the destiny G-d promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.