אתם נצבים היום כלכם
You are standing this day all of you
An Aggadic explanation: Why is this section (beginning with: “אתם נצבים היום”) juxtaposed to the curses of the previous chapter? Because, upon hearing these ninety-eight curses besides the forty-nine that are contained in Leviticus 26, they grew pale asking in despair: “who can withstand all these curses?” Moses therefore tried to soothe them by saying “You are standing 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 are standing) just as it is written (Exodus 19:17) “ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר” (they stood beneath the mountain).
However, in the Talmud (Shabbat 88a) the Sages explain that this verse teaches us that the Almighty lifted the Mount Sinai above them like a cask, and said, “if you accept the Torah, it is well; if not, your burial place will be there.” The Sages also say that this verse furnishes a powerful retort against the Torah (it having been accepted only under duress). Thus, when the Midrash says that Moses soothed them by saying “you are standing here this day,” he meant that, since they had not accepted the Torah willingly, it was as if they were still standing beneath the mountain and were under duress. So, if they did not observe the Torah, becoming liable to the curses, they could still excuse themselves, because they had never agreed to accept the Torah.
Alternatively, one could explain the verb “נצבים” (standing) according to the explanation of the Aqeidat Yitzhak that, although any individual can choose to follow the desire of his soul, the nation of Israel in its entirely can never discard the yoke of the Torah, the entire nation being unable to chose to depart from the paths of uprightness in order to follow the stubbornness of their hearts. For should the entire nation of Israel stand upon a path that is not good and desire 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 by 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 are standing 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.
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 deeply into why believing 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” (He 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, on that account, that the Ten Tribes were exempt from their obligation to fulfill the commandments of the Torah? Do we have a duty to enjoy only 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 “He cast them into another land,” from which we infer that the Ten Tribes will never return, the Scripture writes: “הנסתרת לה’ א-להנו -להינו” (The secret things belong to our Eternal God), which means that we may not question what will become of us or what our end will be if we do not return to our land, but must, 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 remains our duty to fulfill all the words of this Torah whatever the trustworthy God decides to do with us. (שביבי אש)