Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshas Nitzavim-Vayelech 5769 -A choice to be made

Text of the Parsha: Devarim (Deuteronomy) 29:9-31:30

This weeks parsha contains the following phrase from Chapter 30:

15. Behold, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil,   טו. רְאֵה נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ הַיּוֹם אֶת הַחַיִּים וְאֶת הַטּוֹב וְאֶת הַמָּוֶת וְאֶת הָרָע:

The Meforshim explain that what has been set before Bnei Yisrael is the Torah.  Hiwever, this requires some explanation.  After all, isn’t the whole of sefer Devarim essentially a recap of the Torah- setting it before Bnei Yisrael, explaining and elaborating on various aspects when necessary?  Hasn’t Moshe spent the last 30 days setting it before Bnei Yisrael?  Ha Rav Moshe Feinstein gives an interesting insight into this.

Rav Moshe states that the choice here is one that has to be made every day.  We have to choose to study and follow Torah on a daily basis.  it should be something we do by rote, it should nto eb something we do resentfully complaining how difficult it is, doing it not because we have to, but because we want to.  Studying Torah, following the mitzvot from hashem should be something we do happily, by choice; a choice we reconfirm everyday and which we show our commitment to through serving hashem b’simchah.  The consequences of behaving otherwise, Rav Moshe states, is that through our grudging service, our forced obedience, others will get the message that serving Hashem is difficult and not a task one should take on.  Think of the effects of this on his children.  What do they learn from the attitude of their father?  That following Torah is difficult- and as children absorb from their parents, see their parents as superior to themselves, they might well come to abandoning Torah altogetjer as being too difficult.  After all, if it is difficult for their father- it will be impossible for them!

The verse states this in terms of life and good- choosing the Torah on a daily basis is not just life in this world and the next, but it spreads goodness leading others to study Torah and to choose it.  Just as children may drop away from Torah if they perceive their father as resenting it and struggling it- they will be attracted to Torah if they see their fathers love and adherence to it out of joy, out of choice. 

Perhaps there is an additional lesson we can learn from this now, as we start selichot tonight and start preparing for Rosh Hashanah.  Now is the time for us to make that choice- to choose not just to repent, but to choose to follow Torah b’Simchah.  To choose torah out of love, out of a desire to serve hashem.  To see the difficulties of keeping mitzvot not as a burden, but as a joyous task that we can revel in and use to elevate us to new spiritual heights, to bring us closer to Hashem as he seeks to lift us up.


September 11, 2009 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah | , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Well-I’m a giyores who finds that the only time I tuly daaven b’simchah is on Shabbat. It is the only time I am not distracted or feeling rushed. On the weekdays, when I say prayers, it mainly becomes one of the many things I need to do before being late. I agree completely with your point about the effect this has on others who see you doing things rotely, however, I was always taught that even if daily prayers are not always done with great kavanah, they should be done anyway. I don’t know how to resolve these two points. If I only daavened b’simcha, I would hardly pray outside of Shabbat.

    Shabbat Shalom.

    Comment by b_manoakh | September 11, 2009 | Reply

    • Davening b’simcha does not mean you have to be singing and dancing and taking longer over the davening. It is more about attitued. The idea is that when it is b’simcha we are content in ourselves, it is our intention to serve Hashem with gladness. The idea is that daveining and performing mitzvot should not be seen as difficult or a task we have to push ourselves into- but rather something we do gladly because it is something we wish to do rather than something we have to do. Perhaphs the best way to illustrate it is with the Mishnah from Pirkei Avos:

      3. Antignos of Socho received the tradition from Shimon the Righteous. He would say: Do not be as slaves, who serve their master for the sake of reward. Rather, be as slaves who serve their master not for the sake of reward. And the fear of Heaven should be upon you.

      Here the Gemorrah exlains we are the slaves of Hashem, and we should be serving Hashem because of our love and desire to please him, not for the sake of reward.

      as for rote davening- the Rabbonim of the Talmud recognise that as much as we would all like to be perfect and to have perfect kavanah all the time, it is not humanely possible. However, it is better sometimes to do something by rote if you cannot get into the kavanah in order that it become a habit to perform the action. The hope is, that when a persin is habituated to the action, it will be easier for them to obtain the correct kavanah- often when something is unfamiliar it is difficult to concentrate on the proper intentions because of unfamiliarity,

      Comment by marcl1969 | September 12, 2009 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: