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The Torah's Weekly Portions
Deuteronomy/Dvarim - Nitzavim/Vayelech
Standing and Going
Posted 2000 - Contributed by Asher ben Shimon
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This week we will be reading the Torah portion Nitzavim-Vayelech. In contrast with the other double portions we find throughout the year, these two are in essence ONE who get separated only when needed. Nevertheless, since there are two names connected with it, we must learn a lesson from each one by itself, and the way they are connected.

There are several differences between Nitzavim and Vayelech. Nitzavim is ALWAYS read the week before Rosh Hashana. Vayelech on the other hand can be read the week after Rosh Hashanah when not connected to Nitzavim.

Nitzavim means standing. On the day Moshe passed away he gathered all the Jewish people together for a final word before his passing. He started his speech with the words "Atem Nitzavim Hayom- You are all (firmly) standing here today." The more common word for standing is `amidah'. Nitzavim refers to a very firm and solid standing. The term is found back in connection with a king's position. `Nitzav Melech'

Vayelech means going. Vayelech Moshe- Moshe went.

Standing and going are opposites. It is therefore interesting that these two portions were put together and, as we said before, are really one entity.

The world stands on three foundations. Torah, Tefilah (prayer) and Gemilut Chasadim (charity)

We will now see how each three have an element of standing and going.

In general the Torah is divided into two parts. The written law and the oral law. Both were given to Moshe on Mt Sinai and handed down throughout the generations till this very day.

The written part is what we call the chumash, the 5 books of Moshe. If one were to add any words or even a single letter to these books he would be considered a heretic. The Torah is a blue print for the world written by the Almighty G-d. Tempering with his work would indicate it is not Divine. That is the `standing' part of Torah. The oral law is not only not limited to a certain amount of words, on the contrary, it is unlimited!

Hashem gave us 13 basic rules with which to interpret the written law and with those tools one is able to create an infinite amount of laws and deeper insights. With every change in the world, a need for new Halachic decisions arises. To give a modern day example; a book relating to the many issues connected to the twin tower disaster was printed within 6 months of the attack. That is the `going' part of Torah.

Before studying Torah one is obligated to make a blessing. This blessing is made by every Bar mitzvah kid before he reads from the Torah. Unfortunately many of these kids have no idea what the words they are reading mean. Since however they make the blessing over the written Torah, that is not a problem. The written part consists only of its letters and words. By saying al the words one fulfills the obligation of studying written Torah. When it comes to the oral Torah this is not so. There one must UNDERSTAND what he is reading in order to make the blessing. One must try to understand each logical argument with his own comprehension and when there is more than one opinion on the same issue, each side has to be understood for itself. That is because the words in this segment of Torah do not make up the complete entity of the oral law, which is infinite.

On one hand everyone is obligated to pray every day regardless of how big his or her needs are. (standing). On the other hand each person has different feelings and emotions. Some people pray with a lot of intention and feel closer to Hashem when they pray, others only see it as asking G-d to fulfill their needs. (going)

The `going' aspect is also found in the prayer itself. We start every morning with contemplating Hashem's greatness found within nature, continue with discussing what goes on in the heavenly realms (in the blessings before `shema') and then work our way up to the Amidah where we address Hashem directly. Blessed are YOU.

In the Amidah we also have the standing and going aspect. The first and last three blessings are always the same. The middle ones however, vary in amount and content depending on the day of year. On a regular weekday we have 13 middle blessings and on Shabbat and most holidays only one. That one blessings also differs from holiday to holiday.

(Gemilut Chasadim in general refers to all the Mitzvot.) The Torah warns us not to change the amount of Mitzvot that we were given on Mt Sinai by Moshe. 613 is what we got and 613 is what we keep. That is obviously the `standing' aspect.

Nevertheless, even by mitzvot there is room for additions. Not in the quantity but in quality. The same way everyone understands that a BMW is not the same as a Ford it should be simple to understand that there are different types of mezuzot and tefillin. Although they all must fulfill basic requirements to be considered kosher, they may differ in physical appearance (and therefore price). We are told to always try to serve Hashem in a way of Mehadrin min Hamehadrin. To go above and beyond the call of duty. To buy the nicest Tefillin and the best food for Shabbat meals.

Why do we have a standing and going aspect in all parts of our divine service?

This is because the Torah was given by Hashem (standing) to the Jewish people. (going)

G-d never changes. "I am Hashem, I didn't change" He says. We also say it every morning in the prayers: "You are (the same) before the world was created, You are (the same) after the world was created." Hashem is the source of the `standing' aspect.

Angels are called `standing'; man is always on the go. If not in the right direction then in the wrong direction. But going we always go. Since the Torah was given to us, `goers', it was set up in a way that we always have room to reach higher levels.

In order to make sure we always go (Vayelech) in the right direction, we have to first know that we are connected to the unchangeable (Nitzavim) aspect of Hashem. That is the reason why in essence these two portions are one.

Every last Shabbat of the month we bless the upcoming month. Every month with the exception of Elul. The first month of the new year we do not bless ourselves. The Baal Shem Tov explained that Hashem Himself blesses the first month of the New Year, which gives us the ability and the power to bless the other eleven months.

He explained that the reason why we always read Nitzavim the week before Rosh Hashana is because the blessing for the New Year is found in it.

"Atem Nitzavim Hayom- You are all (firmly) standing here today." "Today" refers to Rosh Hashana, which is the day of judgement. "You are all (firmly) standing" indicates that we came out victorious.

By reading Nitzavim it is as if we already passed the day of judgement and received all of Hashem's blessings for the new year.

As we explained before, the two aspects of Nitzavim and Vayelech are connected to Hashem and the Jewish people. The same concept we see also when it comes to blessing the new months.

Nitzavim, which is connected to the never changing G-d, is always read BEFORE Rosh Hashana because then HASHEM does the blessing. Vayelech, which is connected to OUR service is sometimes read AFTER the new year started because the rest of the year WE bless the months. Nevertheless we have to remember that Nitzavim and Vayelech are really one long portion. Although WE say the actual prayer before the beginning of each month, it is only the blessing of HASHEM, which was already given at the start of the year, which we draw down into the next month.

Since Nitzavim is read in close proximity to Rosh Hashana there must be a special connection with our divine service of this time of year specifically as well.

Concerning our divine service Hashem says: " It is gratifying for Me that I spoke, and My will was carried out."

There is talk of Hashem's gratification, (satisfaction, pleasure) and Hashem's will.

In Hebrew that would be Oneg (pleasure) and Ratzon (will). Usually we WANT something because we know it will give us pleasure. Willpower is a very strong driving force. It makes us run everywhere to obtain the object of our desire. We find this back in the Hebrew word Ratzon which contains the word `ratz' which means running. Once we get what we want we relax. Pleasure is connected with lack of motion. When we experience great pleasure we close our eyes and let the whole world around us stop.

[Although before we explained that Hashem is connected with `standing', that was only as opposed to the Jewish people as the going ones. Now we look at the standing and going aspects within Hashem (so to speak).]

Every year on Rosh Hashana we re-crown Hashem as king of the universe. In order for us to have Hashem agree to this we need Him to enjoy it and (therefore) want it.

How to achieve this is hinted in the Rosh Hashana prayers in several places. We ask Hashem to consider us either children or servants. We also continuously mention that Hashem is both our Father and our King.

Fathers always feel pleasure from having their children around them. It is possible to find a professor who doesn't have patience for anyone who is not on his level, holding his baby son in his arms with the greatest look of satisfaction on his face despite the fact that the child can't even talk, let alone understand science. This is because the father and son are in essence one being.

A king–servant relationship is different. The king is only happy with servants who work hard for him.

In order for us to arouse Hashem's `pleasure' we have to serve Him as sons. In order to `want' him to be king we have to show that we are good servants. Translating this into action we would have to say that bringing out our `son' aspect is by Torah study and everything else that is connected to our soul and spiritual matters. To bring out the servant aspect we would have to excel in the performance of Mitzvot, physical deeds.

On Rosh Hashana it is customary to wear white clothes and have a festive meal to indicate that we are convinced that Hashem will inscribe us for a good and prosperous new year.

May all of us indeed be inscribed for a year in which we won't have any physical or spiritual shortcomings with the coming of Moshiach NOW!


Translations in Torah Portions of the week are partially taken from the ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash and from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Chumash

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