• Dvar for Nitzavim-Vayelech (Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30)

    Parshat Vayelech recounts the last days of Moshe’s life. After G-d tells Moshe to designate Yehoshua (Joshua) as his successor, He tells Moshe to write a “song” and teach it to the Jewish people so that the song will be a witness for them (31:19). Moshe writes the song with Yehoshua’s help (according to Rav S. R. Hirsch). Why is Moshe instructed to teach in song form, and why do we need to know that Moshe taught the song to the people (31:22)?
    Rav S. R. Hirsch clarifies that both the song and the teaching aspects of these instructions were given specifically for the benefit of Yehoshua, the future leader of the Jewish people. The manner through which information is conveyed affects the way it is absorbed, and songs and poems make it easier to see the beauty within the words. Once the proper medium of education is established, Yehoshua had to learn the way to teach. For knowledge to last, it is not enough to absorb information but to extract the spirit behind the letter of the Torah law and observe its beauty and brilliance.
    By studying and examining the Torah, not only can we learn its laws, but we can also extract the beauty behind them, such that they sound like music, to us and to those we convey them to.
  • Dvar for Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30)

    Parshat Vayelech includes the commandment to gather everyone every seven years to hear the Torah being read. Men, women, converts and children are invited (31:12). The Gemara explains that while adults came to listen, learn and keep the Torah, the children were brought to reward their parents for bringing them (Chagiga 3). If the children weren’t there to learn, why would Moshe ask that they be brought, and why would there be reward merely for bringing them?

    The Ramban explains that bringing the children to the “Hakhel” Torah reading is not for what they will learn, but for the experience of being there with their family. When children see the effort we put into learning the Torah, trying to become better people, or anything else, the value they attribute to that effort is increased. Not only does effort count, sometimes effort is everything.

  • Dvar for Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30)

    Parshat Vayelech includes the commandment for every Jew to write a song for themselves (31:19), which Rashi says is referring the following Parsha, Haazinu. The sages derive from this rule the final of the 613 commandments that each Jew has to take part in the writing of a Torah scroll. Why would we be required to write our own song, and then be given the song to sing? Also, how is the requirement to write our own song the same as the requirement to take part in scribing our own Torah?

    If we apply the concept of this weekly Dvar Torah, we can easily understand the Torah’s final commandment: If we take any commandment in the Torah and personalize it, although its source is the Torah, its ownership is very personal. Songs, too, sound different when sung by different people. In fact, music becomes even more personal because it’s a more emotional medium. That’s exactly why the Torah chose music as the metaphor to teach us about personalizing the Torah to make it special for ourselves. The Torah wants us to internalize it so much that we sing about it. If we accomplish this, we’ve fulfilled the final commandment of writing our own Torah – with all the harmonies that accompany it.

  • Dvar for Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30)

    Parshat Vayelech includes the commandment for every Jew to write a song for themselves (31:19), which Rashi says is referring the following Parsha, Haazinu. The sages derive from this rule the final of the 613 commandments that each Jew has to take part in the writing of a Torah scroll. Why would we be required to write our own song, and then be given the song to sing? Also, how is the requirement to write our own song the same as the requirement to take part in scribing our own Torah?

    If we apply the concept of this weekly Dvar Torah, we can easily understand the Torah’s final commandment: If we take any commandment in the Torah and personalize it, although its source is the Torah, its ownership is very personal. Songs, too, sound different when sung by different people. In fact, music becomes even more personal because it’s a more emotional medium. That’s exactly why the Torah chose music as the metaphor to teach us about personalizing the Torah to make it special for ourselves. The Torah wants us to internalize it so much that we sing about it. If we accomplish this, we’ve fulfilled the final commandment of writing our own Torah – with all the harmonies that accompany it.

  • Dvar for Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30)

    Parshat Vayelech includes the commandment for every Jew to write a song for themselves (31:19), which Rashi says is referring the following Parsha, Haazinu. The sages derive from this rule the final of the 613 commandments that each Jew has to take part in the writing of a Torah scroll. Why would we be required to write our own song, and then be given the “song” to sing? Also, how is the requirement to write our own song the same as the requirement to take part in writing our own Torah?

    If we apply the concept of this weekly Dvar Torah, we can easily understand the Torah’s final commandment: If we take any commandment in the Torah and personalize it, although its source is the Torah, its ownership is very personal. Songs, too, sound different when sung by different people. In fact, music becomes even more personal because it’s a more emotional medium. That’s exactly why the Torah chose music as the metaphor to teach us about personalizing the Torah to make it special for each of us. The Torah wants us to internalize it so much that we sing about it. If we accomplish this, we’ve fulfilled the final commandment of writing our own Torah – with all the harmonies that accompany it.

  • Daily Aliya for Nitzavim-Vayelech, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Because, G-d explains, I am bringing the people to a Land flowing with milk & honey, the People will eat in contentment and turn from G-d. The Torah, however, will not be completely forgotten from the lips (and hearts) of future generations. Moshe wrote the Torah on that day (Rambam says that he wrote 13 Torahs – one for each tribe and one in the care of the Kohanim/Leviim) and taught it to the People. G-d “commanded” Yehoshua to be strong and courageous in his new role as leader. Moshe completed the writing of the Torah. (Some say that Moshe even wrote the final 8 p’sukim of the Torah, which discuss his death.) Moshe commands the Leviim to take the Torah and place it at the side of the Aron.

  • Daily Aliya for Nitzavim-Vayelech, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d commanded Moshe 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.

    We are commanded to write “The Song” (namely the whole Torah), to teach it to the people, so that it should serve as a testament among the People of Israel. This is mitzva #613, to write a Sefer Torah. Our Sages include in this mitzva the significance of acquiring books from which to learn Torah. Since the Torah itself specifies that the “purpose” of writing a Torah scroll is to learn and teach from it, then writing, buying, acquiring all learning texts would be in the spirit of this mitzva.

  • Dvar for Nitzavim-Vayelech (Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30)

    Parshat Nitzavim starts by proclaiming that “you are all standing here today” (29:9), and then proceeds to use the words “this day” two more times in the next three verses, none of which were actually needed for their corresponding sentences to be complete. What significance is the Torah placing on “this day”?

    As Rabbi Abraham Twerski points out, there are two natural roadblocks placed before us as we endeavor to become better people and better Jews, and both of these roadblocks can be overcome by focusing on “this day”: The first natural roadblock is our inclination to look ahead at temptations and hurdles we WILL encounter, and our feelings of frustration and helplessness in overcoming those collective obstacles. The Torah therapeutically empowers us to focus on one day at a time, and leave tomorrow’s worries for another day. The second natural roadblock we face is the guilt of our past, which can sometimes make us feel depressed and unworthy.  We have today to repent for those things we shouldn’t have done.

    With the past behind us, and a whole new year ahead of us, it’s nice to know that we don’t have to wait to become better people… the time is right now, and “this day” is just right.

  • Daily Aliya for Nitzavim-Vayelech, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe summoned Joshua and told him to be strong and courageous, for G‑d will be going before him and will not forsake him. Moshe then wrote the entire Torah and gave it to the Kohnaim (priests) and the Israelite elders. Moshe 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.

    As the new leader of the Jews, Joshua gets the perfect advice from Moshe, a line that many use today: “Be strong and courageous” (Chazak V’ematz). Be steadfast and strong with your morals, ideals and behavior, and be courageous in your faith in G-d and the future. Present and future both addressed, and a forward-looking encouragement, where the fact that it’s forward looking is just as important as the encouragement itself, both to Joshua and to us today and every day.

  • Daily Aliya for Nitzavim-Vayelech, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe 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. Moshe implored the Israelites to choose life. Moshe 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. Moshe enjoined the Israelites to be strong and not fear their enemies.

    From ou.org: The concept of Free Will is beautifully expressed in the concluding Aliya of Nitzavim. It marks the difference between human beings and all other creations. The sun and the moon “fulfill” G-d’s commands without conscious decisions. A bee doesn’t think things out and decide to pollinate a flower. Nor does a lion attacking a weak zebra evaluate the morality of his act. Only humans have the choice to do good or evil. G-d recommends and pleads with us to choose Life and Good, but He leaves the choice to us. That is why we are accountable for our actions; and that is why we stand before G-d in judgment on Rosh Hashana, while animals do not.

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