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Nitzavim-Vayelech in a Nutshell

Nitzavim-Vayelech in a Nutshell

Deut. 29:9–31:30

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The Parshah of Nitzavim includes some of the most fundamental principles of the Jewish faith:

The unity of Israel: “You stand today, all of you, before the L‑rd your G‑d: your heads, your tribes, your elders, your officers, and every Israelite man; your young ones, your wives, the stranger in your gate; from your wood-hewer to your water-drawer.”

The future redemption: Moses warns of the exile and desolation of the Land that will result if Israel abandons G‑d’s laws, but then he prophesies that in the end, “You will return to the L‑rd your G‑d . . . If your outcasts shall be at the ends of the heavens, from there will the L‑rd your G‑d gather you . . . and bring you into the Land which your fathers have possessed.”

The practicality of Torah: “For the mitzvah which I command you this day, 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.”

Freedom of choice: “I have set before you life and goodness, and death and evil: in that I command you this day to love G‑d, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments . . . Life and death I have set before you, blessing and curse. And you shall choose life.”


The Parshah of Vayelech (“and he went”) recounts the events of Moses’ last day of earthly life. “I am one hundred and twenty years old today,” he says to the people, “and I can no longer go forth and come in.” He transfers the leadership to Joshua, and writes (or concludes writing) the Torah in a scroll which he entrusts to the Levites for safekeeping in the Ark of the Covenant.

The mitzvah of Hakhel (“gather”) is given: every seven years, during the festival of Sukkot of the first year of the shemittah cycle, the entire people of Israel—men, women and children—should gather at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, where the king should read to them from the Torah.

Vayelech concludes with the prediction that the people of Israel will turn away from their covenant with G‑d, causing Him to hide His face from them, but also with the promise that the words of the Torah “shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their descendants.”

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