Parshas Nitzavim # 1
“You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem your G-d, the heads of your Tribes, your elders and your officers, every man of [the people of] Israel” (Devarim 29:9).
On the last day of Moshe Rabbeinu’s life, he initiated the entire Jewish people – men and women, old and young, leaders and “ordinary” Jews, including the souls of future generations as yet unborn – into a renewed covenant with Hashem. This covenant, the fulfillment of Hashem’s promise to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, would be for all time.
Rashi writes that with the words atem nitzavim (“you are standing”), the Torah takes note of an important turning point in the life of the Jewish people. For forty years they had been led by Moshe Rabbeinu, and now Yehoshua would be taking his place. Before this major change, Moshe encouraged the nation to stand and take stock. Generations later, the prophet Shmuel would do the same before handing over leadership of the nation to King Shaul. He said, “Stand up (“hisyatzvu”),and I will go to judgment with you” (I Shmuel 12:7).
Rav Gedaliah Schorr (1910-1979), rosh yeshivah of Torah Vodaas, elaborates. Before his passing and the transfer of leadership to Yehoshua, Moshe made a reckoning with the Jewish people of all that had happened to date, and apprised them of the changes in the new era ahead. Rav Schorr cites an insight from the Chiddushei HaRim about transition and change. The beginning of every new year is a transition, and a time for cheshbon hanefesh (personal accounting). The word shanah (“year”) is related to shinuy, change. The transition from Moshe to Yehoshua marked a change in the hanhagah (leadership) of the nation. Every new year is also a turning point, with its own new hanhagah – the way Hashem will lead us and cause events to unfold over the course of that year.
The parashah of Nitzavim is always read towards the end of Elul, shortly before the beginning of the new year,reminding us as well to stand and make a cheshbon hanefesh of the year now coming to an end. We should regret past mistakes and determine to do better in the year ahead (Ohr Gedalyahu, Moadim, Inyanei Chodesh Elul 8).
Moshe Rabbeinu used the last days of his life to make a cheshbon hanefesh with the Jews in the desert. In our times, we need to be alert to the person, the event, or even just the few words that can inspire a cheshbon hanefesh resulting in real change.
In the summer of 2012, words addressed to tens of thousands of people struck a chord and caused a turnaround in the life of at least one individual – and likely, many more.
A rabbi who met “Dave” described him as being “spiritually on fire,” like a young student just back from a second year of yeshivah in Eretz Yisrael and in love with Torah. Not only was he in shul every day for shacharis, minchah, and maariv, he was a regular at the 5:30 a.m. daf yomi shiur, listened to shiurim on his way to and from work, and had organized a shiur on emunah in his neighborhood. It had not always been that way; far from it. While Dave had grown up observant and attended Jewish schools, by the time he reached middle age, he was a hardworking breadwinner so far from spiritual pursuits or ambitions that he was no longer even davening, let alone going to shul for daily minyan.
It was the daf yomi – or rather, the Daf Yomi Siyum HaShas in 2012 – that made him stop and think, and changed his life. Dave attended the siyum, along with over 90,000 other people. He personally did not learn daf yomi, but he was proud of his grandfathers who had been through the cycle several times, and came mostly because of them.
One of the many speakers that night was Rabbi Yissocher Frand of Ner Israel in Baltimore. He talked about the Bas Kol – the Heavenly Voice that still comes forth from Har Sinai every day, calling upon all Jews to increase their dedication to Torah. Everyone, said Rabbi Frand, should leave the siyum that night with a plan – whether to begin learning a daf a day, or if that was too much, an amud a day, or a page of Mishnah Berurah a day, or even just one Mishnah a day – “but SOMETHING a day!”
For Dave, the words hit home and he was deeply moved. Surely he was capable of doing something a day. He started daf yomi on his own the next morning. It did not take long for him to start missing days, and he realized that on his own, it would not work. Determined to carry through on Rabbi Frand’s inspiration at the siyum, he joined a daf yomi shiur given in shul at 5:30 every morning. It soon clicked that as long as he was in shul for the shiur anyway, it made sense to stay for davening too…
A few months later, it seemed silly to Dave to be davening with a minyan and learning daf yomi in the morning, and then not daven minchah in the afternoon. He added minchah, and while he was at it, maariv, to his schedule. After davening alone for a few months, he started returning to shul in the evening to daven minchah and maariv with a minyan. In short, Dave was on his way. It began with a plan – a commitment to do “something” every day, which grew into a new love for Torah and rekindled emunah (Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, Make Resolutions, Not Wishes, Rosh Hashanah 2015).
Question for Discussion:
Rosh Hashanah is only days away. In your personal cheshbon hanefesh for the upcoming year, what is one thing you have learned about yourself, and how do you plan to address it during the coming year?Click Here To Respond