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Through The Eyes of a Woman

Nitzavim-Vayeilech: Taking a Stand on Moving Forward

The Rebbe very often repeats a statement of the Alter Rebbe that "one must live with the parshah of the week." Since each parshah is divided into seven sections -- the seven aliyos -- one for each of seven men who are called up to the Torah on Shabbos, it follows that each aliyah corresponds to one of the days of the week. This is also the way one learns the parshah of the week in the Chumash part of Chitas.[19] However, the Rebbe points out on many occasions that the message or lesson of the parshah as a whole is contained in its name, such as Bereishis, Noach, or Nitzavim and Vayeilech.

In some years Nitzavim and Vayeilech are read separately, in which case the lesson we derive from the parshah is based on only one of the parshas; in others, they are read together, on the same Shabbos. Accordingly, the juxtaposition of the two parshas gives us an additional teaching.

An analysis of the names of these two parshas shows that they have opposite meanings. The word nitzavim means "standing," while vayeilech means "going." Furthermore, nitzavim has the connotation not only of standing still, but "standing firm." The root of the word, nitzav, is different from the word omed. The latter word is used to indicate that a person is standing, but that he could move at any second. Nitzav, however, has the connotation of standing rooted firmly to a spot; it's much more solid than the word omed.

In addition, this Shabbos is Shabbos Mevarchim, when we bless the coming Hebrew month. However, the month of Tishrei is an exception. Although this is the Shabbos before the new month, we nevertheless do not bless the new month as we do on every other Shabbos Mevarchim. The Baal Shem Tov explains that the reason for the change in custom is that HaShem Himself blesses the month of Tishrei, and therefore we do not bless it. Furthermore, it is due to HaShem's blessing this month that we have the ability to bless all the other eleven months of the year.

Parshas Nitzavim is always read before Rosh HaShanah -- because one of the features of the parshah is that it alludes to the blessing HaShem gives to the Jewish people, the blessing that "you will always stand firmly." You will prevail in your judgment on Rosh HaShanah, and will merit the blessing HaShem gives the Jewish people. And just as Shabbos Mevarchim blesses the coming month, so too the Shabbos Mevarchim prior to the New Year blesses the entire coming year. Accordingly, HaShem gives the Jewish people the blessing that "we will always stand firmly." No matter what happens to you, you will stand; you will not fall. You may have some rough moments, but you'll never be destroyed, you will never fall down; you will always stand, and you will always exist, eternally. You can see how HaShem kept his word, because no matter what happened to the Jewish people, we were always able to stand and remain a nation, and a strong nation.

However, as much as standing firmly in a place has an advantage -- to the extent that it even indicates HaShem's blessing to the Jewish people that we will never be destroyed -- it also has a disadvantage. When a person remains in one spot it shows that he is not growing. On the verse, "I shall make you movers (mehalchim) among these who stand still (omdim)," Chassidus explains that "these who stand still" refers to the angels, who are called omdim because they remain forever on the same spiritual level. This means that they can never fall. But at the same time it means that they cannot advance either. They are locked into their spiritual level forever. By contrast, "movers" (mehalchim) refers to the Jewish people. Although there is a possibility that the individual may fall (although not the entire people, as the word nitzavim teaches), nevertheless, we have also been granted the ability to rise, to advance, to change. In Pirkei Avos we learn that "one hour of teshuvah (repentance) and good deeds in this world is worth more than the entire Gan Eden.[20] Why? Because in Gan Eden the soul no longer has the ability to do Torah and mitzvos -- and therefore no longer has the ability to rise to an infinitely higher level. Although it is on a very high level in Gan Eden, that level is static. The soul is stationary, in the same way an angel is stationary. In this world, however, through Torah and mitzvos, and particularly through teshuvah, a person has the ability to attain the very highest levels -- even higher than Gan Eden.

Accordingly, when Nitzavim and Vayeilech are read together, we can derive the benefits from the lesson that each of these portions teaches us: Nitzavim teaches us to stand firm, and never compromise in matters of Yiddishkeit. Never give in to your yetzer hara. This will lead to G-d's blessing, as each of us stands firm, and triumphs in his judgment on Rosh HaShanah. On the other hand, you also have to go forward -- Vayeilech. A Jew has to go, but where to? Does he just run around in circles? No! You have to go from one level to an even higher level, to grow in holiness. So Nitzavim teaches us that we must (and will) stand firmly and not fall, and Vayeilech teaches us that we must (and will) keep on growing and keep ascending in holiness.

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Chitas is an acronym for Chumash, Tehillim, Tanya -- which constitute the very minimum of learning one should do daily.
  2. (Back to text) The "Garden of Eden" -- paradise. This is where the soul is rewarded after life for its comprehension of G-dliness in this world.
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