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1. 'You are standing this day before … G-d' (29:9). What made the content matter of this assembly different from previous similar-sounding addresses from Moses - according to the Ohr Hachayim?
2. What is the meaning of 'the hidden things belong to G-d' (29:28) - according to (a) Rashi and (b) the Ramban?
3. From where may it be learnt that when Israel is exiled, the Divine Presence suffers exile too - according to Rashi?
4. How does the S'forno understand Moses' declaring that the Torah is 'not in Heaven'? (30:12)
5. Why, according to Ibn Ezra, is the 'stranger' (31:12) (gentile) required to attend the once-every-seven-years 'Hakhel' assembly?
6. Why does the text seem to indicate that, even after repentance (31:17), G-d will (still) 'hide' His 'face' (31:18) from the Israelites - according to the Ramban?
7. How, according to the Chinuch (613), may one fulfill the commandment of 'write this song' (31:19) today?
8. Why, following Rashi (to 30:19), does Moses declare that he is calling specifically 'the Heaven and the Earth' (31:28) to act as witnesses to his final exhortation to follow G-d's teachings?
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT AND COMMENTARIES ON PARASHIOT NITZAVIM / VAYEILECH
1. Following the Ohr Hachayim, the purpose of Moses' addressing the Israelites once more was to stress 'corporate responsibility' - that the Israelites were morally and spiritually responsible for each other. See 29:28 and Rashi ad loc (quoted on #2 below).
2. According to Rashi, these 'hidden things' refer to breaches of Torah teaching committed in private - these are known to G-d only. The public is only held liable for transgressions that are 'revealed' (29:28) - namely, known offences committed by individuals that are passed by without communal censure. The Ramban interprets this passage more generally, holding that the 'hidden things' are our own sins which were done without our knowledge - those are 'known to G-d' only - we are not held liable. Our responsibility extends only to those which are 'revealed' - those that were within our reach to avoid.
3. This is derived in the passage on the future redemption by the use of the word 've-shav' (30:3), instead of 've-hei-shiv', in the sentence: 've-shav Hashem et shevutcha'. The use of the simple 'kal' form can be understood as 'G-d will return with your captivity', whereas 've-hei-shiv', would be rendered as 'G-d will cause your captivity to return'. The former implies that G-d's special Divine Presence only returns to the Holy Land when His people return with Him.
4. According to the S'forno, the Torah is to be learnt and observed even where the link with Heaven is not readily at hand - namely in times where there are no Prophets to convey the Word of G-d in a direct manner.
5. The 'stranger' is the non-Israelite who lives amongst them, and observes the basic laws of Humanity. Such a person is strongly encouraged to attend the Hakhel assembly with the hope that he might be suitably impressed to desire to become a full member of the House of Israel.
6. Following the Ramban, G-d will continue to hide His face because the repentance implied in the previous verse - 'Have not these troubles happened because G-d is not in my midst?' is not a complete one. Full repentance is contained in the words 'You shall return to… G-d' (30:2).
7. This may be fulfilled by purchasing books of Torah content - the word 'song' being given a suitably wider interpretation.
8. Moses called the Heaven and Earth to act as witnesses to his final exhortations to the Israelites because they have the following characteristics. Firstly, they are timeless - they last for ever. Secondly, they follow the word of G-d without any promise of Divine Reward - a salutary lesson for the Israelites.
ADDITIONAL QUESTION ON NITZAVIM-VAYEILECH
The Torah states that the Israelites will 'return to G-d and obey His voice' (30:2) after the trials and tribulations of the Exile. If their repentance in Exile is sufficient to merit their return to the Holy Land, why must He circumcise their heart… to love G-d…(so that) they should return to, and obey G-d' (30: 6,8) when they do return to the Holy Land?
My attempt to write on this issue may be found in Shema Yisrael forNitzavim-Vayeilech in 5761
Other Parashiot from previous years may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/index.htm
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: email@example.com for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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