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A New Beginning

היום הזה נהיית לעם לה’ אלקיך

Today you have become a nation to Hashem your G‑d.”[1]

Rashi explains that the word “today” refers not to the specific day on which Moshe delivered this message to Bnei Yisrael.  Rather it means that on each and every day we must feel as if we had just now entered into a covenant with Hashem.

Constant renewal is the key to remaining fresh and energetic in Hashem’s service.  Otherwise, even the most enthusiastic religious observance will eventually descend into the monotony of a dry routine.

The Piazetzna Rebbe zt”l once lamented the fact that he was born Jewish and was unable to convert into Judaism.  Rather than having been born and raised in Hashem’s service, he would have preferred to have been able to show Hashem his eager willingness to serve Him by making the conscious decision to convert.

To some extent, we are indeed able to convert ourselves into Judaism each day anew.  A convert must commit to observing the entire Torah.  If he presumes to accept the entire Torah with the exception of even one detail of any mitzva, his petition to convert is rejected.   So too, we must make a new commitment every day, firmly resolving to observe the entire Torah, leaving no detail of any mitzva forsaken.  Thereby, we renew the covenant Hashem made with our forefathers on Har Sinai, and are converted once again into His service.

2

Elsewhere in this week’s parsha we find the verse:

ולא נתן ה’ לכם לב לדעת ועינים לראות ואזנים לשמע עד היום הזה

Hashem has not given you a heart to understand, eyes to see or ears to hear, until this day.[2]

Rashi there comments:

שמעתי שאותו היום שנתן משה ספר התורה לבני לוי, כמו שכתוב “ויתנה אל הכהנים בני לוי” באו כל ישראל לפני משה ואמרו לו משה רבינו אף אנו עמדנו בסיני וקבלנו את התורה ונתנה לנו, ומה אתה משליט את בני שבטך עליה, ויאמרו לנו יום מחר לא לכם נתנה, לנו נתנה. ושמח משה על הדבר, ועל זאת אמר להם “היום הזה נהיית לעם וגו’”, היום הזה הבנתי שאתם דבקים וחפצים במקום.

I heard explained that on that day Moshe gave the Sefer Torah to the Tribe of Levi, as it is written in Parshas Vayeilech, “And he gave it to the Kohanim, the sons of Levi.”

The rest of the Jewish nation then came to Moshe to protest, saying, “Moshe Rabbeinu, we too stood at Sinai.  We too received the Torah.  Why do give your own Tribe priority over the rest of us?  Tomorrow they will claim, ‘The Torah was not given to you.  It was given to us.’”

Moshe rejoiced to hear their complaint.  Regarding this he said the verse, “Today you have become a nation to Hashem your G‑d,” meaning, “Today I see that you are devoted and eager to serve Hashem.”

Although Bnei Yisrael had already stood at Har Sinai and declared, “Na’aseh v’nishmah – We will obey and we will listen,” this was still not enough for Moshe to conclude that they were really devoted and eager to serve Hashem.  He waited to see if the same enthusiasm that marked their initial acceptance of the Torah would continue in years to come.  Forty years later, when this week’s parsha occurred, they showed that they still were eager to serve Hashem, taking every precaution to ensure that the Torah would remain in the hands of the entire Jewish nation.  Only then did Moshe conclude that their commitment was indeed sincere and eternal.

“Today I see that you are devoted and eager to serve Hashem,” said Moshe.  To the degree that we devote ourselves to Hashem’s service, declaring Him as our G‑d, He also declares us as His chosen nation, with all the benefits this entails, as the verse states:

את ה’ האמרת היום להיות לך לאלקים וללכת בדרכיו ולשמר חקיו ומצותיו ומשפטיו ולשמע בקלו. וה’ האמירך היום להיות לו לעם סגלה כאשר דבר לך ולשמר כל מצותיו. ולתתך עליון על כל הגוים אשר עשה לתהלה ולשם ולתפארת ולהיתך עם קדש לה’ אלקיך כאשר דבר.

Today you have distinguished Hashem to be your G‑d, to walk in His ways, observe His statutes, commandments and laws, and heed His voice.  And today Hashem has distinguished you as His treasured nation… to place you supreme over all the nations He has made, for praise, for renown, and for splendor, that you shall be a holy nation to Hashem your G‑d, as He has spoken.[3]

3

From Rosh Chodesh until Shemini Atzeres it is customary to recite twice each day the chapter of Tehillim beginning, “L’David, Hashem ori – Of David, Hashem is my light”,[4] wherein we find the verse, “One think I asked of Hashem, this I will beseech, to dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of my life and to visit His sanctuary.”

The commentaries note that this request begins in the past tense, “I asked of Hashem,” and immediately switches to the future, “This I will beseech.”  Perhaps we can explain that man must go through several stages in his life.  Each stage is marked by its own interests, its own dreams, and its own aspirations.   What interests a child does not always interest an adult, while what interests an adult does not always interest the elderly.  Similarly, man’s thoughts are molded by his place in society.  The aspirations of a pauper are different than those of a wealthy businessman.

David HaMelech in particular saw many worlds.  He began his career as a humble shepherd and concluded it as the King of Israel.  The verse, “You uplift the pauper from the dust heaps and seat him  among the noblemen of his nation,” well applied to him.

Yet throughout his life, in youth and old age, in poverty and in riches, in ignominy and in fame, his heart’s desire was nothing else than to study Hashem’s holy Torah and draw close to His loving embrace.

Another important insight can be found in the continuation of this verse, “To dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of my life and to visit His sanctuary.”  If a person dwells somewhere for his entire life, he can hardly be considered a visitor.  Yet David prayed that he may be a permanent resident of the yeshivos and batei midrash, learning Torah throughout his life, while still feeling the freshness and novelty of a newly arrived visitor.

May we all merit to devote ourselves to Torah and mitzvos with renewed strength and vigor each day, and may we be written and sealed in the book of life for a year of sweetness in the service of Hashem.


[1] Devarim 27:9

[2] Devarim 29:3

[3] Devarim 26:17-19

[4] Tehillim 27; Mishnah Berurah 581 s.k. 2

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