| Published: September 04, 2023
In this week’s reading, Nitzavim-Vayelech, Moses gathers the Israelites on the day of his passing to enter them into a covenant with G‑d. He warns of the exile and desolation of the Land that will result when Israel abandons G‑d‘s laws, but assures them that they will eventually repent, and G‑d will then return His people to the Holy Land. This portion also talks about freedom of choice and the mitzvah of teshuvah (repentance). Moses transferred leadership to Joshua and wrote a Torah scroll which he handed over to the Levites. Moses commanded the Israelites to gather following every Sabbatical year.
First Aliyah: On the final day of his earthly life, Moses gathered all the Israelites — men, women, and children — to enter them into a covenant with G‑d, establishing the Israelites as G‑d’s exclusive nation. Moses warned the Israelites not to be tempted by the idolatrous lifestyles of the Egyptians and the other sundry nations through which they had passed in the course of their travels. Moses warned of the dire consequences which will befall the individual, family, or tribe, which would forsake their covenant with G‑d. This section concludes with the concept of communal responsibility for not appropriately punishing individual sinners.
Second Aliyah: Moses informed the Israelites what will occur after they are exiled from their land due to their sins. Eventually they will wholeheartedly return to G‑d, and G‑d will gather them from the furthest reaches of the heavens and return them to the land of their forefathers. At that point, Moses says, “G‑d will ‘circumcise’ your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you may love the L-rd your G‑d with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Third Aliyah: When G‑d gathers His people’s exiles, the Israelites will once again serve G‑d, and will be blessed with abundance in the work of their hands, the fruit of their wombs, the fruit of their land, and the fruit of their livestock. Moses enjoined the people to follow the mitzvot, informing them that “it is not beyond you nor is it remote from you. It is not in heaven… It is not across the sea…. Rather, it is very close to you, in your mouth, in your heart, that you may do it.”
Fourth Aliyah: Moses told the Jewish people that they have been given free choice to choose between good and evil, life and death. Their choice will determine whether they are the beneficiaries of G‑d’s blessings or curses. Moses implored the Israelites to choose life. Moses informed the people that he is 120 years of age on that day, and he is not permitted to cross the Jordan River together with them. Instead, Joshua will lead them, and G‑d will go before them and destroy their enemies. Moses enjoined the Israelites to be strong and not fear their enemies.
Fifth Aliyah: Moses summoned Joshua and told him to be strong and courageous, for G‑d will be going before him and will not forsake him. Moses then wrote the entire Torah and gave it to the Kohnaim (priests) and the Israelite elders. Moses gives the commandment of Hakhel (assembly), whereby every seven years, during the holiday of Sukkot which follows the Sabbatical year, all men, women, and children assemble and the king publicly reads sections of the Torah.
Sixth Aliyah: G‑d commanded Moses to enter the Tabernacle together with Joshua. G‑d appeared to them both and informed them that a time will come when the Israelites will abandon G‑d and stray after alien gods. At that time, G‑d will hide His countenance from the nation, and they will be subjected to much evils and troubles. Therefore, G‑d says, “Write for yourselves this song, and teach it to the Children of Israel. Place it into their mouths, in order that this song will be for Me as a witness…” This ‘song’ is narrated in next week’s Torah reading.
Seventh Aliyah: When G‑d’s wrath will find the Israelites as a consequence of their evil actions, they will claim that the misfortunes are befalling them because G‑d has abandoned them. At that time, the song which Moses and Joshua wrote will bear testimony that these events are in fact punishment for their sinful behavior. Moses took the freshly concluded Torah scroll and gave it to the Levites. He instructed them to place it beside the Ark which contained the Tablets. Moses then gathered the entire nation to hear the song, wherein he would call upon the heavens and earth to be witnesses that the Israelites were forewarned regarding their fate.
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