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Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim Vayeilech 5774

Parashat Hashavua: All of You Before Hashem

Harav Yosef Carmel


Our parasha opens with a declaration: “You are all standing (nitzavim) before Hashem, your G-d, today – your heads of tribes, your elders, your officers, every man in Israel. Your children, your wives, and the foreigners who are in the midst of your encampment, from your woodchoppers to your water drawers” (Devarim 29:9-10).

We have, in the past, demonstrated that the word nitzavim is a reference to a setting of revelation of Divine Presence and that the unity of different elements of society described there is a condition for that Presence. The idea of “all of you,” along with the widely diverse elements of society, is a sign of the importance that the Torah gives to social justice. Whatever people’s roles and status in society in general, all are equal in their ability to take part in the holy convocation with Hashem.

In many societies, the right to be involved in spiritual affairs, to learn and benefit from such experiences, was reserved for the elite within society. Here the idea is the opposite. In order for anyone to benefit from the status of the “chosen nation,” the nation has to give every member of the nation the right to be included and to open the window of spirituality before them. The leadership and the “elite” in society, mentioned in the beginning of the pasuk, must ensure that this is the case.

Every coin has two sides, and in this case, the opportunity afforded to all also places the yoke of responsibility upon all. The entire nation was “passed through the covenant” (ibid. 11). The covenant requires the powerful to include everyone in it and thereby create a whole nation that is responsible for the conditions of the covenant. The covenant was not limited to that generation, but all future generations were included as well – as the Torah writes, “Those who are with us here and now, and those who are not… (ibid. 13-14).

We call upon the leadership of the country who are responsible for spreading the spiritual treasures of our nation, such as the Chief Rabbis and the Minister of Education, to help all the citizens of Israel gain access to as much truth and spirituality as they possibly can. All should be invited to take part in our national legacy. This call is especially important on the doorstep of a new year. Without allowing all to taste the good we have, we will not succeed in calling all to take part in the obligations of the covenant. As Rav Kook has taught us, the love of religion and respect for it must precede the observance of the religion.

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