Weekly Torah Commentary — Nitzavim/Vayelech August 30, 2013

Double Portion: Nitzavim/Vayelech Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30

On the day of Moshe’s death he assembled the entire Jewish people and created a Covenant confirming the Jewish people as the Almighty’s Chosen People (chosen for responsibility to be a light to the nations) for all future generations. Moshe made very clear the consequences of rejecting God and His Torah as well as the possibility of repentance.

Nitzavim concludes with perhaps the clearest and most powerful statement in the Torah about the purpose of life and the existence of free-will: “I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil … the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life that you may live, you and your descendants.”

The other critically important section in Nitzavim is this one: For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not hidden from you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven that you should say, “Who shall go up to heaven for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it, and do it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it, and do it?” But the word is very near to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it. See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil; in that I command you this day to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments: then you shall live and multiply: and the Lord your God shall bless you in the land into which you go to possess it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-16) The importance of this passage cannot be underestimated. It removes every excuse, every false doctrine that says “the Torah was too hard and the Jews couldn’t keep it”, and therefore something else had to be created. Nonsense! The passage says very clearly that ‘the word is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, you can do it…” We are bluntly and straightforwardly told that God has not asked something of us which is beyond our ability to do. So…what’s your excuse?

Vayelech begins with Moshe passing the torch of leadership to Yehoshua (Joshua). Moshe then gives Yehoshua a command/blessing which applies to every Jewish leader: “Be strong and brave. Do not be afraid or feel insecure before them. God your Lord is the One who is going with you, and He will not fail you nor forsake you.” Volumes have been written about leaders and leadership but when speaking of Jewish leadership, or biblical leadership, this verse teaches us the foundation: TRUST in God begets strength and courage. Without strength of character and moral courage, there is no leadership.

Moshe writes the entire Torah and gives it to the Cohanim and Elders. He then commands that in the future at the end of the Shmita (Sabbatical Year) the king should gather all the people during Succot festival and read to them the Torah so “… that they will hear and learn and fear the Lord your God and be careful to perform all the words of the Torah.”

In Tune with Torah this week = on this final Shabbat of the current Hebrew year, with Rosh Hashana just days away, let each of us examine our record on making excuses for failure or neglect in following God and His Torah. Let us repent of excuses and resolve to improve our obedience to Him in the year to come.

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