This week’s Parsha is Parshat Nitzavim. In Perek Kaf Tet, Pasuk Tet—the first pasuk in this Parsha—Moshe said to Bnei Yisrael:
אַתֶּ֨ם נִצָּבִ֤ים הַיּוֹם֙ כֻּלְּכֶ֔ם לִפְנֵ֖י ה״”
You stand this day, all of you, before your god Hashem.
Why would Bnei Yisrael need to know that they are standing before Hashem—isn’t it pretty obvious?
Rashi quotes a Midrash that says, “When the Jewish people heard the one hundred curses minus two, they turned pale and exclaimed, ‘How will we be able to survive?’”
Then Rashi explains that Moshe comforted them by declaring: ‘Atem nitzavim hayom’ — ‘You are still existing today, regardless of the many wrongdoings which you have already committed.”
However, why does this midrash phrase the curses as “one hundred minus two”, rather than simply saying “ninety-eight”? Are there only 98 curses, or 98 and an additional two?
Parshat Ki Tavo, the parsha before this week’s one, lists many curses. 98 of them are spelled out clearly and are easy to understand, yet there are two other curses that are listed in a very unclear way: “Even any illness and any blow that is not written in this Book of the Torah, God will bring upon you, until you are destroyed” (28:61).
When Bnei Yisroel heard the first 98 curses, they thought that they could handle them. However, when those last two curses were stated vaguely, the Jews, not knowing how to anticipate those curses or what to make of them, became very frightened. This is why in the Midrash, the first 98 curses are differentiated from the last two.
By: Tova Bossewitch (10th)