I hope that you’ll enjoy the following Parsha summary followed by a Dvar Torah;
” Parsha in a Nutshell “
Parashat Nitzavim start by saying: “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.”
Moshe warns of the exile and desolation of the Land that will result if Israel abandons G-d’s laws, but he then prophecizes that, in the end, “You will return to the L-rd your G-d”.
Then Moshe says: “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.”
Moshe also talks about 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.”
“ Dvar Torah “
Le Eluy Nishmat Reuven Ben Mashiach, my late father, Saeed Hakimian Z”L, Ruach Hashem Tenachenu Be Gan Eden;
Parashat Nitzavim records Moshe Rabeinu’s last day of life which was his 120th birthday too. Accordingly, Moshe gathers the entire congregation and gives them his farewell speech. He basically tells them that if they would follow G-d’s commandments, Hashem will bless them and they will prosper in the promised Land, but G-d forbid, if they do not follow, they will be accursed and they will perish from the Land. Towards the end of his speech, Moshe tells them the following: ” I call upon you today, the heaven and the earth as witnesses for you. I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. And you shall choose LIFE, so that you and your children may live.”
In short, what Moshe is telling the Benei Israel is that they have a choice to make. They have to choose between life and death. And the way it works is as follows. If they’ll keep Hashem’s commandments they will live, but if G-d forbid, they don’t listen to the voice of G-d, they will surely perish and die. But what’s so mind-boggling is that Moshe tells them which one is the right choice?! “and you shall choose LIFE…..” Surely anyone with a sane mind knows that life is better than death?! So why did Moshe have to tell them which one is the right answer?! Couldn’t they figure it out by themselves?!
Rabbi Kamenetzky says the reason why Moshe gives them the answer to this simple dilemma, is to emphasize the importance of life! Life is so precious that Moshe had to spell it out for them so that there won’t be any doubt in anyone’s mind to choose life over death! In Judaism life is so important that under no circumstances death has priority over life. Suicide is strictly forbidden! Even in the case of a very sick person, we have to fight for his life till the last second. To demonstrate the importance of life, the Torah tells us that the reward for honoring parents which is considered to be one of the hardest mitzvot of the Torah, is longevity. Even Moshe seems to be sad on the last day of his life, when Hashem tells him it’s time to leave this world. Moshe tells them to choose life because there is no greater blessing than to “live”!!
But you may ask yourself, what is so special about life? After all, in Talmud it says that the world that we live in is just a corridor to get us through to our ultimate destination, “Olam Haba”- the world to come! It is there that our souls are going to live forever! It is there that there won’t be anymore pain or suffering! It is there that every soul is going to be closer to the Almighty! So why can’t we speed up our journey to get to our final destination?
Rabbi Kamenetzky says that the only reason why this world has superiority over the world to come is because, only in this world we can do “Gemilut Chassadim”, act of kindness towards our fellow human beings. That’s why more than ½ the mitzvot of Torah are laws between man and man. To have compassion for our brothers is what life’s all about. For example, in the world to come, you won’t be able to give charity to the poor, because there won’t be any poor people over there. You won’t be able to visit the sick, because there will be no more sick people there. You won’t be able to care for the elderly, because there won’t be any old people there anymore. All these things can only be done in this world! The Torah is telling us to choose life, but it wants us to choose the right way of living. Hashem wants us to live a meaningful life, a life committed to higher values and a higher purpose. A life that is filled with love for each other; a life that we care for one another!
Yes my friends, life is the most precious thing anyone can possess, we should never take it for granted. Cherish every moment of it and be grateful to Hashem. Life is so valuable that the Torah has to spell it out for us. But life without a goal is meaningless. So what do you think is the purpose of life? Well, some of us may think that the purpose of life is to accumulate as much wealth as possible; some of us may think that the purpose of life is to have as much fun as possible; and some of us may think that the purpose of life is to devote our lives entirely to Hashem by praying and studying Torah, every day and night! Or, could it be that the purpose of life is to show compassion to our fellow human beings and to care for one another?! The Chachamim say that the only thing you can take with you to the next world is your “Ma-asim Tovim”, your good deeds and everything else is going to be left behind.
B’H, my late father, Reuven Ben Mashiach, knew very well the purpose of life. He dedicated most of his time to go to Kanissa and be a help to the community. Last week, I received many phone calls and texts from people that I didn’t know, mentioning how my Dad helped them to say Kadish and be a “Shaliach Sibur” in Kanissa. How he joked around with them and brought smile to their faces when they needed it the most. How he blessed them and gave them advice. Unfortunately his life was shortened due to his illness, but he lived a full life. The kind of life that the Torah expect from us! May he rest in peace.
As we are approaching Rosh Hashana, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New year. Rosh Hashana is a day of Judgment where our destiny is going to be decided for the year to come. Accordingly, I wish that all of your prayers be accepted by the Almighty, and your names to be written in the book of good health, happiness, prosperity and above all, in the book of “LIFE”!!!
Shabbat Shalom, Shana Tova and Regards;