by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS NITZOVIM 5768 BS"D
Ch. 29, v. 26: "Va'yichar af Hashem bo'oretz ha'hee" - And Hashem's anger burned in that land - It is markedly noticeable that this verse and others nearby point out the destruction of the LAND, "Sreifoh chol artzoh" (v. 22), "Al meh ossoh Hashem kochoh lo'oretz hazose" (v. 23), and our verse. However, the bnei Yisroel themselves are only subject to exile, "Va'yitsheim ……. va'yashlicheim" (v. 27). Rabbeinu Bachyei comments that these verses refer to the behaviour before and leading up the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdosh. The gemara Shabbos 88a says that the forced acceptance of the Torah at Har Sinai allows for an excuse for sinning, as the precepts were not accepted out of totally free will. The gemara goes on to say that as a result of the Purim story the bnei Yisroel then accepted the Torah willingly. The Ramban and Rashbo explain that the exile before the Purim incident is justified even with "modo'o rabo l'Oreisa," the excuse of being coerced, because living in Eretz Yisroel is a special privilege, subject to complying with Hashem's wishes.
We now understand why only the land is destroyed and why the bnei Yisroel were spared, albeit they suffered greatly upon being exiled. The people themselves have "modo'o rabo l'Oreisa," while the merit to live in the land is lacking. (Shaarei Aharon)
Ch. 30, v. 2: "V'shavto ad Hashem Elokecho" - And you will return to Hashem your G-d - At the end of verse 10 we find, "ki soshuv el Hashem Elokecho." Why the repetition?
1) Our verse discusses an incomplete repentance. That of verse 10 is a complete one, as it is accompanied by actually doing all the mitzvos (verse 8). (Tzror Hamor)
2) Ours refers to only repenting on a mental level and studying Torah, while later it refers to also repenting for improper behaviour, as indicated by doing the mitzvos. (Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh)
3) Ours is repentance that is limited because we are being contrite in the Diaspora, where life is difficult. This is not a complete repentance, as it is not being done under optimum conditions. Verse 5 relates that Hashem will return us to our land and life will be rosy. Repenting under such conditions is a total teshuvoh. (Chasam Sofer)
4) One does not grasp the enormity of his sin until after he has repented. The initial repentance is limited in scope because the sinner looks upon his transgressions as being minor. Only after repenting does he understand how grievous his sin was, and he therefore needs to repent again and again. (Tiferes Shlomo)
5) Our verse is repentance out of fear, while verse 10 is repentance through love, as is stated in verse 6, "l'ahavoh es Hashem Elokecho." (Nirreh li)
6) Ours is repentance based on our own moral decisions, albeit that it matches the Torah's requirements, as indicated by the words in verse 2, "V'shavto ad Hashem …… K'chol asher onochi m'tzavcho," LIKE all that I command you. Verse 10 discusses repentance that is spurred on by totally following the Torah's dictates, as stated in that verse, "Ki sishma b'kole Hashem Elokecho lishmore mitzvosov v'chukosov haksuvoh b'sefer haTorah." (Nirreh li)
7) Our verse discusses teshuvoh for outright sins, while verse 10 discusses teshuvoh for doing mitzvos in an improper, incomplete manner, as indicated by the words in verse 4, "Im yi'h'yeh nidachacho biktzei hashomoyim." This is a most unusual expression. One is pushed away at the edge of the earth, meaning that he has strayed in earthy physical matters. "Biktzei hashomoyim" means that one has sinned in spiritual pursuits, i.e. without proper intention, incomplete, etc. This requires a separate teshuvoh. (Nirreh li)
Ch. 30, v. 14: "B'ficho uvilvovcho laasoso" - In your mouth and in your heart to do it - The mishnoh in Pirkei Ovos 1:2 says that the world stands on three merits, that of Torah study, service to Hashem, and kind deeds. "B'ficho" is verbal Torah study, "uvilvovcho" is service to Hashem (prayer is called "avodoh shebleiv"), and "laasoso" is kind acts. (Rabbeinu Bachyei)
Ch. 30, v. 15: "R'ei nosati l'fo'necho ha'yom es hachaim v'es hatov v'es hamo'ves v'es hora" - See that I have placed before you today the life and the good and the death and the bad -
1) Rashi explains that these choices come in tandem. If you do that which is good you will have life and if you do the opposite you will receive the resultant negative.
If so, why doesn't the verse mention TOV before CHAIM, and so on, since CHAIM is the result of choosing TOV? The Kli Yokor answers that "tov" ahead of "chaim" would indicate to us that we behave properly to merit receiving life. However, it is preferable to have "chaim" so that we have the opportunity to do good. This is substantiated by nearby verses, "l'ahavoh es Hashem Elokecho …… v'choyiso v'roviso" (v. 16), and "l'maan tichyeh atoh v'zar'echo l'ahavoh es Hashem" (v. 19,20).
2) The Ibn Ezra explains these four terms differently. "Chaim" is a long life and "tov" is wealth and health. The next two terms are the opposite.
3) All four terms refer to the Torah. For the person who studies Torah and behaves properly it is life and good, while for the person who studies it and remains a "rosho" it is both death and bad, as per the verse in Yechezkel 20, "V'gam ani nosati lohem chukim lo tovim umishpotim lo yichyu bohem."
4) Life refers to everlasting good, while good is the benefit we receive on this ephemeral world. Similarly, death refers to everlasting bad, while bad refers to the short-lived suffering on this world. (Sforno)
5) Life refers to fulfilling a mitzvoh "lishmoh," with the proper intentions. Good refers to fulfilling a mitzvoh "shelo lishmoh." Death refers to responding to the evil inclination when it paints a picture of the sin as something positive. This is worse than bad, which refers to the evil inclination telling it as it is, but still pushing one to sin.
6) Life means doing mitzvos, and good is the ensuing reward. Death means transgressing the Torah's commands, and bad is the ensuing punishment. (Malbim)
7) These four terms are strategies to combat the evil inclination. Life and good mean connecting to Torah and mitzvos, and thus pushing away the evil inclination. Death and bad mean using the strategy of fearing punishment if one would transgress. The verse ends that one should rather choose the former group.
This is the explanation of the gemara Brochos 5 as well, which offers different manners through which one should combat the evil inclination. It starts off with suggesting that one delve into Torah study, and only if that is insufficient, he should take to heart that he will eventually die. The end of our verse is also well understood. By pursuing good behaviour to combat the evil inclination, one amasses merits that will stand in his descendants' good stead. (Ponim Yofos)
Alternatively, it is more likely that one's descendants will follow the right path by being exposed to a positive attitude towards compliance with the Torah's dictates than through doom and gloom. (Nirreh li)
Ch. 30, v. 17,18: "V'im yifneh l'vovcho, Ki ovod toveidun" - And if your heart will turn away, For you shall surely vanish - We might translate "yifneh" as "will empty." If your heart will empty, removing the inner letters of "l'vov'cho," and only be left with "l'cho," concern only for your own physical comforts, you will surely waste away. (Nirreh li)
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