Nitzavim: Torah for All

Ingathering of the Exiles

ושבת ה אל היך את שבותך ורחמך ושב וקבצך מכל העמים

The Lord, your God, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from all the the nations
(Deuteronomy/ Devarim 30:2)

The biblical commentator, Rashi, is interested here in the conjugation of the verb שב, to return. He points out that that it indicates not just that “The Lord your God will bring back your exiles,” the direct translation of the verse, but that “The Lord, your God, will (Himself) return (with) your exiles.” Our rabbis taught in Megillah 29a that that the Shechinah resides among Israel in their exile, and when they are redeemed, so too is God.

It is as though God himself takes each individual Jew with him, as the verse says in Isaiah 27:12 – “And you will be gathered up, one by one, O children of Israel”.

I see this unfolding before my very eyes. Each weekday I go to Hebrew classes, called ulpan, at an absorption center, a public housing complex for new immigrants. I can think of at least 10 countries off the top of my head that my fellow students hail from. It is an incredible thing to me that so many Jews are coming to live in Israel. It seems that you have to be very idealistic, very desperate economically, facing a lot of anti-Semitism, are very religious, or very crazy. Something different is going on here though. For various reasons that logic does not fully explain, Jews are returning to their homeland like the salmon know to swim upstream. It’s not easy, nor really all that logical, but it’s pre-programmed.

Final Commandment

ועתה כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת ולמדה את בני ישראל
So now, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the Children of Israel. (31:19)

Our sages learn from this verse the 613rd Mitzvah in the Torah — to write a Torah scroll.
Nishmat, a seminary that I learned at, will be having a Hachnasat Sefer Torah (welcoming a new Torah scroll) for not one but two scrolls, to the Bet Midrash next week. Becoming the home to a sefer Torah, the holiest of books and one that costs over $20,000 at that, is a big deal.

See the blog post about the event here.

What do you think of the fact that the Torah is referred to as a song?

These Laws are Binding – And Doable!

כי המצוה הזאת אשר אנכי מצוך היום לא נפלאת הוא ממך ולא רחקה הוא… כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאד בפיך ולבבך לעשתו
(30: 11, 14)
“For this commandment which I command you this day is not concealed from you, nor is it far away.”
“It is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.”
This seems to indicate that Hashem realizes that his laws and statues will be difficult to keep, but He reassures that is is possible!

Rashi points out that in verse 14, כי קרוב אליך means the written and oral Torah. I think that much confusion and opposition to the keeping of Mitzvot comes from a lack of understanding that as important as the written Torah scroll is, (see above), it can only be understood and kept as part of the living oral tradition that was given at the same time.

This week’s Torah portion reminds the Jewish people that they have entered into a covenant with Gd. Everyone, from the woodchoppers to the water drawers, men, women and children alike.

I had the privilege today to attend the Brit Milah of the son of friends of mine and celebrate a new entry into the covenant. Rabbi Danny and Shoshana Simons of Efrat had twins – a boy and a girl – Yisrael Zev and Gabriella Shlomit Neshama.  Yes, it is a painful process indeed.


Yisrael Zev is comforted by a wine pacifier after the procedure.


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Ilene Rosenblum is a writer and marketing professional living in Jerusalem.

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