Enjoy four short thoughts and a video adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Parshat Nitzavim-Vayelech.

The Individual and the Community

You are all standing this day . . .

Deuteronomy 29:9

Parshat Nitzavim is always read on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah. The Torah addresses every Jew in these words, “You are standing today, all of you, before the L-rd your G‑d: Your heads, your tribes, your elders, your officers, even all the men of Israel… from the hewer of your wood to the drawer of your water.”

This is something of a contradiction. The verse begins “You are all standing”—without making any distinctions. But immediately afterwards, it proceeds to detail the different classes of Jew separately. Why, did it need to do so, when the phrase “all of you” already encompasses them all?

It did so in order to make a fundamental point: that on the one hand, there must be unity amongst Jews; and, at the same time, each has his unique contribution to make, his own individual mission.

But, if there have to be distinctions amongst Jews, how can there be true unity amongst them?

The verse supplies its own answer: “You are standing today, all of you before the L-rd your G‑d.” It is as Jews stand before G‑d in the full recognition that He is the author of their powers and the ground of their being, that they are one. With the assurance implicit in these words, each Jew, comes to the coronation of G‑d on Rosh Hashanah, the acceptance of His sovereignty and the proclamation of His kingship over Israel, and over the entire world.

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The Strength to be Successful

You are all standing this day . . .

Deuteronomy 29:9

This week’s Torah reading begins: “You are all standing today.” “Today” refers to Rosh HaShanah, the Day of Judgment. The Torah is telling the Jews that they “are standing,” triumphant in judgment. This is the blessing for the month of Tishrei, and in a larger sense, the blessing for the entire year.

More particularly, the word nitzavim — the core of the blessing given by G‑d — does not only mean “standing.” We find the term: nitzav melech, “the deputy serving as king.” the use of the term nitzavim indicates that G‑d blesses us to stand with the strength and confidence possessed by a king’s deputy.

This blessing enables us to proceed through each new year with unflinching power; no challenges will budge us from our commitment to the Torah and its mitzvos. On the contrary, we will proceed from strength to strength in our endeavor to spread G‑dly light throughout the world.

When a person identifies with G‑d — the G‑dly core within his own being and the mission of revealing G‑dliness in the world at large — he discovers indomitable resources of strength. This enables him to overcome all obstacles and appreciate the bountiful good with which G‑d has endowed the world.
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Every Moment Counted

And Moses went and spoke the following words to all of Israel. And he said to them: “I am one hundred and twenty years old today . . .”

Deuteronomy 31:1–2

Today my days and years were fulfilled; on this day I was born, and on this day I shall die . . . This is to teach us that G‑d fulfills the years of the righteous to the day and to the month, as it is written (Exodus 23:26): “I shall fulfill the number of your days.”

Rashi, ibid.; Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 11a

A year is more than a quantity of time: it is a cycle, a sequence of transitions that runs its course only to repeat itself again and again. On the spiritual plane, each year brings a repeat of the various spiritual influences unleashed by the festivals (freedom on Passover, joy on Sukkot, etc.) from their fixed position on the Jewish calendar.

Thus, the Hebrew word for “year,” shanah, means both “change” and “repetition.” For the year is an embodiment of the entire range of transformations that constitute the human experience. Each year of our lives only repeats this cycle, though on the higher level to which a year’s worth of maturity and achievement have elevated us. In other words, one can say that we all live for one year, and then relive our lives for as many times as we are enabled, each time on a more elevated level, like a spiral which repeats the same path with each revolution, but on a higher plane.

Therein lies the significance of a life that is “fulfilled” in the sense that it consists of complete calendar years. Moses was born on the seventh of Adar and passed away on the same date, as was the case with a number of other tzaddikim (perfectly righteous individuals).
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A Personal Torah Scroll

And now, 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 for the children of Israel.

Deuteronomy 31:19

This week’s Torah reading contains the final positive commandment in the Torah, the mitzvah to write a Torah scroll. Each individual is obligated to write a Torah scroll for himself.

This commandment raises a question. Over the course of Jewish history, we do not find many individuals writing Torah scrolls. Why has the mitzvah not been given adequate focus?

The resolution to this question depends on the conception of Jewish community. When a community undertakes an objective, it is considered as if all the members of the community are involved in that activity.

Jewish communities throughout the world have always had Torah scrolls written for them. When commissioning these scrolls, the intent is that every member of the community be considered a part owner of the scroll, and that it therefore be considered as if each member of the community himself has commissioned the writing of the scroll, in this way, the entire community fulfil their obligation.

The mitzvah of writing a Torah scroll was given to the Jewish people - and fulfilled by Moshe Rabbeinu - directly before our people’s entry into Eretz Yisrael. Our Rabbis have taught that the fulfillment of this mitzvah is one of the preparatory steps leading to the conclusion of exile and to the advent of the era when we will again enter Eretz Yisrael, and fulfill all the mitzvos in the most complete manner.
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The Heart of the Nation

The verse in the Torah which addresses the Jewish people, divides them into ten categories, from “the heads of your tribes” to “your water drawers.” “The heads of your tribes” refers to those that lead by teaching Torah. As G‑d Himself says of Moses, the quintessential Jewish leader, “Remember the Torah of Moses, My servant. Yet the Torah also tells us that all the needs of the nation were provided by Moses – a sign that a true leader must also be a “water drawer:”