Thursday, September 13, 2012

standing with power and strength, nitzavim

Standing Before G-d


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By Eli Touger

Adapted from

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, p. 398ff;

Vol. XIX, p. 173ff

Who Blesses the New Month?

In explaining the custom not to recite the traditional blessing for the new month on the Shabbos before Tishrei, the Alter Rebbe relates:1

When I was in Mezeritch, I heard the following teaching from my master, the Maggid, in the name of his master, the Baal Shem Tov:

The seventh month is the first of the months of the year [to come]. [In contrast to the other months,] the Holy One, blessed be He, Himself blesses this month on. the last Shabbos of the month of Elul. And with the strength [imparted by this blessing], the Jews bless the 11 [coming] months.

It is written:2 Atem nitzavim hayom, "You are standing today." "Today" refers to the day of Rosh HaShanah, the day of judgment3 .. "You are standing," triumphant in the judgment.

On the Shabbos before Rosh HaShanah, we read the portion Atem Nitzavim. This is the blessing of the Holy One, blessed be He, on the Shabbos on which the seventh month is blessed. It is a month which is satiated and which satiates all of Israel with manifold goodness for the entire [coming] year.

With Unchanging Strength

More particularly, the word nitzavim the core of the blessing given by G-d does not mean merely "standing." It implies standing with power and strength, as reflected in the phrase:4 nitzav melech, "the deputy serving as king," i.e., G-d's blessing is that our stature will reflect the strength and confidence possessed by a king's deputy.

This blessing enables us to proceed through each new year with unflinching power; no challenges will budge us from our commitment to the Torah and its mitzvos. On the contrary, we will "proceed from strength to strength"5 in our endeavor to spread G-dly light throughout the world.

What is the source of this strength? Immutable permanence is a Divine quality. As the prophet proclaims:6 "I, G-d, have not changed," and our Rabbis explain that one of the basic tenets of our faith is that the Creator is unchanging;7 nothing in our world can effect a transition on His part. Nevertheless, G-d has also granted the potential for His unchanging firmness to be reflected in the conduct of mortal beings, for the soul which is granted to every person is "an actual part of G-d."8 This inner G-dly core endows every individual with insurmountable resources of strength to continue his Divine service.

To Maintain the Connection

Our Torah reading continues, stating that the Jews are "standing today before G-d" for a purpose: "To be brought into a covenant with G-d."9

What is the intent of a covenant?10 When two people feel a powerful attraction to each other, but realize that with the passage of time, that attraction could wane, they establish a covenant. The covenant maintains their connection even at times when, on a conscious level, there might be reasons for distance and separation.11

Each year, on Rosh HaShanah, the covenant between G-d and the Jewish people is renewed. For on Rosh HaShanah, the essential G-dly core which every person possesses rises to the forefront of his consciousness. Thus the fundamental bond between G-d and mankind surfaces, and on this basis a covenant is renewed for the entire year to come,12 including the inevitable occasions when these feelings of oneness will not be experienced as powerfully.

Oneness which is not Insular

The Torah states that this covenant is being established by "all of you," and proceeds to mention 1013 different groupings within the Jewish people.14 The establishment of a bond of oneness with G-d is also mirrored by bonds of oneness within our people. For the same spiritual potential that motivates our connection to G-d evokes an internal unity which binds our entire people together.15

In our prayers, we say:16 "Bless us, our Father, all as one." This implies that standing together as one generates a climate fit for blessing.17

May our standing before G-d "as one" on Rosh HaShanah lead to a year of blessing for all mankind, in material and spiritual matters, including the ultimate blessing, the coming of Mashiach.


1. HaYom Yom, entry 25 Elul.

2. Deuteronomy 29:9.

3. See the Targum to Iyov 2:1.

4. I Kings 22:48. See Or HaTorah, Nitzavim, p. 1202.

5. Cf. Psalms 84:8. Herein lies a connection to Parshas Vayeilech the Torah reading which follows Parshas Nitzavim , and which is often coupled with this reading on a single Shabbos. This connection is highlighted in the subsequent essay, entitled "Looking Forward."

6. Malachi 3:6.

7. See Rambam, Guide to the Perplexed, Vol. I, ch. 68, et al.

8. Tanya, ch. 2. The word nitzavim is a passive form; literally, it should be translated as "you have been made to stand." For the ability for a mortal to possess such unchanging firmness is granted to him from Above, by virtue of his essential G-dly nature.

9. Deuteronomy 29:11.

10. See Likkutei Torah, Devarim 44b.

11. This is possible because a covenant establishes a connection that transcends intellect. Even when on a conscious level, one would sever the relationship, the covenant causes it to continue.

12. See the essay entitled "At One with the King" (Timeless Patterns in Time, Vol. I, p. 3ff) which discusses this theme.

13. Ten groupings are mentioned, because 10 is an inclusive number. As such, once a minyan (quorum) of 10 is established, the addition of other people to a congregation is insignificant with regard to the laws of prayer.

14. See Likkutei Torah, Devarim 44a.

15. See the essay entitled "At One with G-d; At One with our Fellow Man" (Timeless Patterns in Time, Vol. I p. 8ff) which discusses this theme.

16. The conclusion of the Shemoneh Esreh prayer, Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 60.

17. See Sefer HaSichos 5700, p. 157.

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