סדר נצבים

אתם נצבים היום כלכם

You stand this day all of you 

Deuteronomy 29:10

An Aggadic explanation: Why is this section (beginning with: “אתם נצבים היום”) put in juxtaposition to the curses in the previous chapter? Because upon hearing these ninety-eight curses besides the forty-nine that are contained in Leviticus 26, they became pale and asked in despair: “who can withstand all these curses?” Moses therefore began to soothe them by saying “You stand this day” (אתם נצבים היום).

But this explanation is difficult. Are the punishments mentioned in the previous chapter simply a matter of partiality or favoritism? They are punishments for wrongdoing. Our master suggested that an explanation may be found in the comment of the Ba’al ha-Turim: “אתם נצבים” (you stand) just as it is written (Exodus 19:17) “ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר” (and they stood beneath the mountain).

However, in the Talmud (Shabbat 88a) the Sages explain that this verse teaches us that the Almighty lifted the mountain (Sinai) over them like a cask and said, “if you accept the Torah, it is well, if not, there will be your burial place.” The Sages also say that this verse furnishes a powerful retort against the Torah (inasmuch as it was originally accepted under duress). Thus, when the Midrash says that Moses soothed them by saying “you stand here this day,” he meant that since they had not willingly accepted the Torah, it was as if they were still standing beneath the mountain and were under duress. So, if they did not observe the Torah, and were in jeopardy of the curses, they could be still excuse themselves, because they had never willingly agreed to accept the Torah.

Alternatively, one could explain the verb “נצבים” (standing) according to the explanation of the Aqeidat Yitzhak that although each individual has the choice to follow the desire of his soul, the nation of Israel in its entirely can never discard the yoke of the Torah, and the whole people cannot chose to depart from the paths of uprightness by following the stubbornness of their heart. For should the entire nation of Israel stand upon a path that is not good and wish to do what is evil in the eyes of the Eternal and to despise the Holy One of Israel, He will install a harsh ruler like Haman upon them, so that they will be moved to repent from their evil ways. It was in reference to this idea that it is written (Ezekiel 20:33): “חי אני נאם ה’ א-להים אם לא ביד חזקה ובזרעה נטויה ובחמה שפוכה אמלוך עליכם ” (as I live, says the Eternal God, surely with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out, I will be king over you).

This is lesson of the verse “you stand this day all of you before your Eternal God,” which means that the nation as a whole, if it wishes, may stand before the Eternal to fulfill the Torah. But should it refuse to do so, then, just as it was coerced into accepting the covenant at Mount Sinai, it will be compelled by force to fulfill the Torah and to stand before the Eternal. (שביבי אש)

הנסתרת לה’ א-להינו והנגלת לָנו ולבנינו עַד עולם לעשות את כל דברי התורה הזאת

The secret things belong to our Eternal God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. 

Deuteronomy 29:28

Our master explained that this verse may be understood according to the last responsum of the Hatam Sofer on Yoreh Dei’ah, in which he inquired profoundly why belief in the coming of the Messiah is a basic tenet of our faith. For concerning the Ten Tribes it is said (Deuteronomy 29:27) “וישלכם אל ארץ אחרת כיום הזה” (and cast them into another land, as at this day), which, according to the Sages of the Talmud, means that just as this day does not return, so, too, the Ten Tribes will never return. Shall we say that the Ten Tribes, on that account, would be exempt from their obligation to fulfill the commandments of the Torah? Do we have a duty to enjoy the benefits of the Torah? On the contrary, our obligation is to make the will of the Eternal our desire. That is why, after the Scripture writes “and cast them into another land” from which we infer that the Ten Tribes will never return, the Scripture writes: “הנסתרת לה’ א-להינו -להינו” (The secret things belong to our Eternal God), which means that we should not question what will become of us or what our end will be if we do not return to our land, but instead remain in the diaspora forever. The Scripture continues: “והנגלת לָנו ולבנינו עַד עולם לעשות את כל דברי התורה הזאת” (but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law), which means that even if the Eternal never does return our remnant, it is still incumbent upon us to fulfill all the words of this Torah whatever the trustworthy God decides to do with us. (שביבי אש)

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