Weekly Reading Insights

Netzavim-Vayelech 5762

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Netsavim-Vayelech, Shabbat Mevarchim
To be read on the Shabbat of 23 Elul 5762 (Aug.31)

Torah: Deut. 29:9-31:30
Haftorah:Isaiah 61:10- 63:9 (7th of the Seven Haftorahs of Consolation)
Pirkei Avot: Chapter Four to Six

Netzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20) opens with G-d making a covenant with the Jews, establishing them as His nation. He tells them that if they stray from the Torah, evil will befall them, but that when they return they will be rewarded with blessings, and will be returned to their land. G-d sets before them the choice between good and evil, but warns them to stay away from evil. Vayeilech (Deuteronomy 30:1-30) opens with Moshe telling the Jews that he has reached the age of 120 and will not be entering the Land of Israel with them. He summons Joshua in front of the Jewish people, telling them that he will lead them into the land, and that they should be strong and brave. Moshe tells them about the Hakhel gathering of all the men, women and children, which occurs every seven years during the festival of Sukkos after the Sabbatical year. Moshe wrote 13 Torah scrolls, one for each of the tribes, and one for the Ark.


FROM THE CHASSIDIC REBBES (V:51.52-62/Netsavim/Vayelech )


"See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil." (30:15)

One should not perform good deeds in order to live; one should live in order to perform good deeds.
(Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk)


"Gather the people together, men, women and children." (31:12)

Rashi asks: Why were the children included? To bring reward to the parents who brought them. G-d helps parents raise their children to be G-d-fearing and upright to the same degree that they put their efforts into the task.
(Sefat Emet)


FROM THE MASTERS OF KABBALAH (O:51.52-62/Netsavim/Vayelech)

Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.


"G-d will single him out for misfortune, etc."(29:20)

This seems a paradox. After the soul of the person had already been blotted out [see previous verse and commentaries], how can G-d separate it from other souls?
We may have to understand this in connection with Isaiah 60 that all the Jewish souls originate in the same sacred part of heaven, immediately below the throne of G-d, as we have been told in Vayikra Rabba 4,6 on Genesis 46:26 where all the 70 souls of the family of Jacob are described as "the whole soul" (singular), as opposed to the souls of Esau which are described in the plural (Genesis 36).
When the Torah writes that "G-d will blot out his name for under the heaven, this means that G-d will not take action against this man and consign him to the forces of the klipa which is here called "evil," until He has separated his soul. This "separation" implies certain restrictions G-d imposes on the forces of the klipa concerning the soul of this person. G-d makes it a point to always set some limits on the forces of destruction, even though He Himself allocated to these forces the parameters within which they may operate.


"This nation will arise and stray after idols, etc." (31:16)

How can Moses describe such a deviation as "a rising," instead of as "a descent, a degradation?" Perhaps we may relate the description "will arise" to 32:15 where Moses described the Israelites as first waxing fat and as a result "kicking." Up until that point Israel had been referred to as "Yeshurun." At this point Moses pointedly speaks about "the people," the common people rising . The coarsening of the Jewish people was due to their material blessing which G-d had showered upon the nation deserving of the distinctive appellation "Yeshurun."

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter


This Shabbat is very important for a few reasons. It is the last Shabbat of the year and, therefore, an excellent opportunity to correct any lacking in our Shabbat observance in the past year. It is also, the Shabbat preceding Rosh Hashanah. Our behavior on Rosh Hashanah-'the HEAD of the year-determines what will happen to us in the coming year, much as the head controls the body. The Zohar (B'shalach) teaches that Shabbat is the vessel for blessings of the week that follows it. Therefore, how we maximize this coming Shabbat will have a qualitative impact on how we spend Rosh Hashanah, which will in turn have a positive affect for the entire new year, G-d willing. It is of utmost importance to plan in advance for this Shabbat, making it as holy as possible, so that our behavior will be in tune with the day's potential.

Clear hints to the above may be found in the first verse of Netzavim, "You are standing today together all of you...." When the Jewish people are united-"together all of you", it is like when children love each other, and it is impossible for their father to deny them. The word "today" hints to Rosh Hashanah. On Rosh Hashanah we are judged by G-d. If we stand together, the decree will be the best. No other possibility should be acceptable. Make every effort to practice ahavat yisroel starting right now.

This past Monday was Chai (18th) Elul, the life-force of Elul. It is also the birthdays of both the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement, and Rabbi Schneur Zalman, founder of the Chabad movement. It is also the beginning of the final 12-day count down to Rosh Hashanah. A Chassidic tradition teaches us that each of the last twelve days of the year refers to one of the corresponding 12 months of the previous year. On each day we work to fix anything that may be lacking in the corresponding month.

The Baal Shem Tov asks a question on a verse in Vayeilech, "When all the blessings and curses described will happen to you, you will take it to your heart and do tshuvah"(30/1). It is reasonable to assume that when bad things happen, we will take stock of our actions and do tshuvah. But why does the verse mention blessings also? The Baal Shem Tov answers with an analogy of a villager who destroyed a statue of the king. Instead of punishing him with death for treason, the king gave him an influential position and consistently promoted him until he was one of the king's chief advisers. The more he was showered with good, the more the adviser saw the king's greatness and regretted what he had done as an unsophisticated villager; he now understood how he had been truly liable for punishment. This was precisely the king's intention. Instead of enduring one punishment, the elevated villager suffered a lifetime of regret, increasing more each time he was promoted. How could he have done such a thing to the king? So it is with our verse. Sometimes when a person sins, G-d punishes. But other times, even when deserving of punishment, G-d will shower a person with kindness. How patient and kind of the Almighty to sustain us, even as we rebel against Him. The pain we feel should be even greater: 'How could we do such a terrible thing to the Almighty!?' And when G-d sees this regret that His subject is feeling, this is worth more to him than all of the punishments.

Shabbat Shalom,


Stats: Netsavim contains 0 positive mitzvot and 0 prohibitive mitzvot. Among the Weekly Readings, Netsavim ranks 53 out of 54 in number of verses, 52 in number of words, and 52 in number of letters;it is written on 87 lines in a Torah parchment scroll, 52 in overall length.
Veyelech contains 2 positive mitzvot and 0 prohibitive mitzvot. Among the Weekly Readings, Vayelech ranks 54 out of 54 in number of verses, 53 in number of words, and 53 in number of letters;it is written on 72 lines in a Torah parchment scroll, 53 in overall length.

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