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Parshat Nitzavim-Vayelech

By: Alexa Szafranski (12th Grade)

In this week's Parsha, something incredible happens: Moshe renews his covenant with Hashem. This turns the very basis of Jewish existence, yet it goes nearly unnoticed.

At this point in history, Hashem had made three covenants with man. The first being with Noach for human solidarity, the second with Avraham about his descendants, and the third with Moshe at Har Sinai with the Ten Commandments.

When we look at these three, we notice that Hashem initiated them, not Noach, Avraham, or Moshe. With Noach, Hashem asked for no response, Noach simply understood that the Shiva Mitzvot Bnei Noach were necessary, and so he was passive. With Avraham, Hashem requested a simple acceptance, the Brit Milah. Yet from Moshe and Bnei Yisrael at Har Sinai, Hashem asked for much more. He asked the people to accept His 613 Mitzvot and to incorporate Him into every aspect of their lives.

Another difference with this third covenant was that Hashem had Moshe announce it to the people before making it to ensure that the people agreed. This is the first time we see the idea of "consent of the governed," which was later depicted in the Declaration of Independence. Hashem did not want to force the people into His laws, He wanted their consent and agreement to this responsibility.

Now this all happened earlier on in the book of Shmot, but now with this renewal, Moshe is taking his own initiative in order to renew this previously made covenant. As the Pasuk states, "to enter into the covenant of the LORD your God and its oath, which the LORD your God is making with you today, to establish you today as His people, that He may be your God, as He promised you and swore to your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." (Deut. 29:9-12)

This is the first time of many that this vow would be renewed, and Moshe was the one who set this precedent. Moshe did so because he knew that change was in the air and that the terms were about to shift from a divine method to a human method. In the last month of his life, Moshe is telling the people that the pillar of cloud and fire will not remain with them when they enter Israel; the reigns will be completely handed over to humanity.

With this we see the children becoming adults, and as the end of the year is near, we too must get ready to begin a new chapter of our lives following Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur. We must act towards Hashem and not expect Him to act upon us.

Good Shabbos!

This Dvar Torah is based on one by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Saks.

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