Weekly Reading Insights

Netzavim/VaYelech 5763

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Netzavim/Vayelech, Shabbat Mevarchim

To be read on 23 Elul 5763 (Sep. 20)

Torah: Deut. 29:9-30:20;
: Isaiah 61:10-63:9 (seventh of the seven "Haftorahs of Consolation")

Pirkei Avot: Chapter Four, Five and 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.
(Deut. 31:1-30) 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 Hakhel, that at every seven years, during the festival of Sukkot, they should gather the men, women and children together, and read the specified portions from the Torah. Moshe wrote 13 Torah scrolls, one for each of the tribes, and one for the Ark.

FROM THE CHASSIDIC REBBES (V:5152-63Netzavim/Vayelech )


"The anger of G-d shall burn against this land... and G-d shall root them out of the land in anger... and cast them into another land." (29:26-27)

The curses and punishments enumerated in this section of the Torah are merely warnings, not promises that G-d must fulfill. Their purpose is to arouse the heart of man to choose good over evil so that they will never come to pass.
(Peninei HaGeula)

"If any of you are dispersed at the outermost parts of heaven, from there will the L-rd your G-d gather you." (30:4)

No matter how far a Jew may be from Torah and Judaism, G-d promises to gather him back into the fold of the Jewish people when Moshiach comes. When a Jew is spiritually brought back from "the outermost parts of heaven," it hastens Moshiach's coming and brings the Redemption closer.
(Lubavitcher Rebbe)



"Call heaven and earth to witness against them." (31:28)

They, the Jewish people, will be My witnesses, testifying that I created heaven and earth. For it is through the Jews that the world comes to know that G-d is the Creator and that He constantly oversees His handiwork.
(Chidushei Harim)


FROM THE MASTERS OF KABBALA (K:5152-63Netzavim/Vayelech )

Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of Shney Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah, as translated, condensed, and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of the title, was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.

According to Nachmanides the commandment to do tshuva is alluded to in the portion of Netzavim, in 30,11: "For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, etc."

The mystical dimension of repentance is part of the emanation binah. Students of Kabbalah are aware that this emanation cannot be accessed by the Gentiles. The latter can access only the emanations from chesed "downwards." Canaanites have access to these lower emanations. Ishmael was sired by Abraham who represented the emanation chesed. Hence Gentiles are able to relate to this emanation. Being offspring of Isaac, who represented the next "lower" emanation gvura, the descendants of Esau also could access that emanation.

Having delineated the above exceptions, the 70 nations can access only the sarim u'mazalot which we have already described. The inability of these 70 nations to access the emanations of either chesed or gvura explains why the touching by members of such nations disqualifies wine, an expression of G-d's bounty. All this because of the pollutant of the serpent which spread through mankind as a result of Eve having squeezed out the fruit of the tree of knowledge (reputedly the grape). It thus became what is termed in our portion (29, 17) poreh rosh v'la'ana, "a fruit turning into poison weed and wormwood." Concerning this type of wine, Solomon (Proverbs 23, 31) has said: "Do not look at wine when it is red."

Since the emanation binah is not exposed to the "touch" of the Gentiles, the wine we find in that domain is the kind of which our sages have said that it has been preserved in its original grapes ever since the six days of Creation, in order to be served up to the righteous in the Hereafter (Berachot 34). This is an allusion to the six "revealed" days of Creation remaining as they are, i.e. accessible to contact by the Gentiles. The six days of Creation known as the days of binyan, the concealed aspect of the work of Creation, serve as an area in which this wine is stored for the eventual enjoyment by the righteous. The penitent must elevate himself to a level that qualifies him to partake of that wine in the future. He is able to burst the confining shackles of the klipot, symbols of the constraints imposed upon him by the evil urge, so that he can rejoin the mainstream of the Jewish people. The ba'al tshuva together with the other righteous will then experience the revelation of G-d's secrets as a result of having partaken of this wine. This is the meaning of Psalms 25, 14: "G-d's secrets are reserved for those who fear him."

(adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Zefat on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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(W:5152-63Netzavim/Vayelech )

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 - literally "the head of the year" - determines what will happen to us in the coming year, much as the head controls the body.
The Zohar (parashat Beshlach) 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...." (Deut. 29:9) When the Jewish people are united, i.e. "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 "love of your fellow Jew" 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 entire Chasidic 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 Chasidic 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 Vayelech. "When all the blessings and curses described will happen to you, you will take it to your heart and do teshuva". (Deut. 30:1) It is reasonable to assume that when bad things happen, we will take stock of our actions and do teshuva. 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, Shaul Leiter



Stats: Netzavim , 8th Reading out of 11 in Deuteronomy and 51th overall, contains 0 positive mitzvot and 0 prohibitive mitzvot. It is written on 87 lines in a Torah parchment scroll, 52 in overall length.
Vayelech , 9th Reading out of 11 in Deuteronomy and 52nd overall, contains 2 positive mitzvot and 0 prohibitive mitzvot. It is written on 72 lines in a Torah parchment scroll, 53 in overall length.


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