Parashat Nitzavim


Devarim 29:9 You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem, your G-d: Your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your officers - all the men of Yisrael;

Rashi on 29:9 YOU ARE STANDING. [The verse says, "today," which] teaches us that on the day of his death, Moshe assembled Yisrael in the presence of the Holy One, Blessed is He, to bring them into [His] covenant.

YOUR HEADS, YOUR TRIBES [literally, "your leaders, your tribes," referring to two separate entities, which does not make sense here because "your tribes" includes the leaders. Rather, this means here:] "The heads of your tribes."

YOUR ELDERS, AND YOUR OFFICERS. [We learn from the order in this verse that] the more distinguished ones were mentioned first, and after this: "every man of Israel."

29:10 your small children, your women, and your convert who is in the midst of your camp, from the hewer of your wood to the drawer of your water,

Rashi on 29:10 FROM THE HEWER OF YOUR WOOD TO THE DRAWER OF YOUR WATER. [The mention of these people separate to the main community of Yisrael] teaches us that in the days of Moshe Kenaanim came to convert [to Judaism], just as the Giv'oni came [to convert] in the days of Yehoshua. This is the meaning of the verse regarding the Giv'onim, "And they also acted cunningly..." (Yehoshua 9:4), [i.e., pretending that they had come from a far away country. When they were discovered, Yehoshua made them woodcutters and water drawers for Yisrael (see Yehoshua 9:3-27). Likewise here, the Kenaanim attempted to deceive Moshe, but they did not succeed, and Moshe did not accept them to be Jews. Rather,] Moshe made them woodcutters and water drawers [i.e., slaves for Yisrael].

29:11 for you to pass into a covenant of Hashem, your G-d, and into His oath that Hashem, your G-d, forges with you today,

Rashi on 29:11 FOR YOU TO PASS INTO. [Meaning,] "That you may pass through [i.e., enter] the covenant." One should not understand this verb [to be in the causative conjugation,] to mean "to cause you to pass through," [but rather, the verb is in the simple conjugation, and means that you yourselves will pass through]. This is similar to the expression, "that you [yourselves] should do them" (Devarim 4:14).

FOR YOU TO PASS INTO THE COVENANT [literally,] "that you may pass through the covenant." This was the method of those who made covenants: They would set up a demarcation on one side and a demarcation on the other, and [the respective parties of the covenant] "passed through" between [these partitions], as the verse says, "[when] they cut the calf in two and passed between its parts" (Yirmeyahu 34:18).

29:12 in order to establish you today as a people to Him and that He be a G-d to you, as He spoke of you and as He swore to your forefathers, to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov.

Rashi on 29:12 IN ORDER TO ESTABLISH YOU TODAY AS A PEOPLE TO HIM. [Why does G-d here warn Yisrael against idolatry by making such grave oaths and severe curses, unlike other commandments where He would simply make a warning and attach a punishment if the commandment was transgressed?] He goes to so much trouble here, for the purpose of keeping you as His people. [Since He promised not to exchange you for another people (see the following Rashi ), He must ensure your faithfulness to Him.

AND THAT HE BE A G-D TO YOU, AS HE SPOKE OF YOU AND AS HE SWORE TO YOUR FOREFATHERS not to exchange their offspring for another nation, therefore, He [ensures your faithfulness to Him by] binding you through these oaths, so as not to provoke Him to anger, because He cannot separate Himself from you. Until here, I have explained this passage according to its simple sense. The homiletic explanation is as follows: Why is parashatNitzavim juxtaposed to the curses [in parashat Ki Tavo]? Because when Yisrael heard these ninety-eight curses [delineated in Ki Tavo besides the forty-nine [curses] stated in VaYikra (26:14-38), they turned pale, and said, "Who can possibly endure these?" [Thereupon,] Moshe began to appease them [as follows]: You are... standing today You have provoked the Omnipresent to anger many times, yet He has not made an end to you. Indeed, you still exist before Him ["standing... before Hashem"].

TODAY. [You exist now] Just as this day exists. For [although] it becomes dark [for a period, nevertheless] it shines [again]. So too, here, G-d has made light for you, and He will again make light for you in the future. And the curses and sufferings preserve you and enable you to stand before Him [the curses, by preventing you to stray from serving Him, and the sufferings, by cleansing you of your sins]. Similarly, in the previous parasha [of Ki Tavo Moshe spoke] words of conciliation, [e.g.,] "You have seen all that Hashem did..." (Devarim 29:1). Another explanation of "You are... standing": Because the Yisraelim were now passing from one leader to the next—i.e., from [the leadership of] Moshe to [that of] Yehoshua. Therefore, Moshe made them stand [in assembled ranks], in order to encourage them. Yehoshua did the same [when he was about to die (Yehoshua 24:1)]. Also, Shmuel [did likewise], when Yisrael passed from his leadership to that of Shaul, [as the verse says,] "Stand now, and I will reason with you before Hashem." (1Shmuel 12:7).

29:14 but with whoever is here, standing with us today before Hashem, our G-d, and with whoever is not here with us today.

Rashi on 29:14 AND WITH WHOEVER IS NOT HERE WITH US TODAY - also with future generations.

29:15 For you know how we dwelled in the land of Egypt and how we passed through the midst of hte nations through whom you passed.

Rashi on 29:15 FOR YOU KNOW. [V15-17 are understood as follows:] Since you saw the idolatrous nations, perhaps one of you was enticed to follow their ways, and "perhaps there is among you..." (v17), therefore, I must place you under an oath [because you are in this position of extra susceptibility].

29:16 And you saw their abominations and their detestable idols, of wood and stone, of silver and gold, that were with them.

Rashi on 29:16 YOU SAW THEIR ABOMINATIONS. Hebrew: shikutzeihem. [Their idols are so termed] because they are disgusting, like creeping, crawling insects (shekatzim).

THEIR DETESTABLE IDOLS. Hebrew: giluleihem. [Their idols, thus termed] because they are putrid and disgusting like dung (galal).

WOOD AND STONE. You saw those [idols] made of wood and stone out in the open, because the heathen [who owned them, did not mind leaving them outside, since he] did not fear that they would be stolen. [Thus, regarding these idols, the verse says, "And you saw their... idols... (of) wood and stone."] However, [regarding the idols made] of "silver and gold," they "were with them," in the [confines of their private] treasure chambers, because [their heathen owners] were afraid that these [expensive idols] might be stolen.

29:17 Perhaps there is among you a man or woman, or a family or tribe, whose heart turns away from being with Hashem, our G-d, to go and serve the gods of those nations; perhaps there is among you a root growing gall and horehound.

Rashi on 19:17 PERHAPS THERE IS MAONG YOU. This phrase is repeated twice in this verse. Rashi explains here that there might be two levels of disobeying G-d. A person might serve other deities, or he is one...] whose heart strays this day from accepting upon himself the covenant.

A ROOT GROWING GALL AND HOREHOUND. [This refers to] a root that produces a bitter herb, like giddin, which are bitter [see Targum Yonatan on Eicha 3:19]. Here, then, the verse means: "[Someone who] produces and increases evil among you."

29:18 And it will be that when he hears the words of this oath, he will bless himself in his heart, saying, "I will have peace, though I go as my heart sees fit" - thereby adding the drunk with the thirsty.

Rashi on 29:18 HE WILL BLESS HIMSELF IN HIS HEART. Hebrew: vehitbarech bilvavo [the word vehitbarech stems from] the word for "blessing" (barech. [The verse means:] "In his heart, [this man] will imagine a blessing of peace for himself, saying: These curses will not come upon me. I will have only peace!" Vehitbarech [i.e., the verb is in the reflexive conjugation], like vehitgalach, "And he shall shave himself" (VaYikra 13:33), vehitpalel, "and he will pray" (1Melachim 8:42), [which employs the reflexive form of the root ].

I GO AS MY HEART SEES FIT. [Meaning, "If I follow] what my heart beholds," as in [the verse], "I behold it (ashurenu), but it is not near" (BaMidbar 24:17). That is to say [the verse means]: "[Even if I go in the way] that my heart sees [fit] to do."


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