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Rabbi Marcus – Nitzavim Vayelech
Nitzavim – Moshe gathers the entire nation on the last day of his life to deliver his farewell address. His words are directed not only at those present but also to all ensuing generations. Moshe reminds the people of the Covenant with G-d and warns against being influenced by the pagan ways of the nations around them. If they stray from the Torah they will suffer indignities and be exiled from the land of Israel, but not permanently if they return to the path of Torah. Moshe stresses that to observe and to be faithful to the tenets of Judaism is within everyone’s grasp and not as difficult as people imagine. This Sidra with its obvious theme of repentance and return is most appropriately always read on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah.
Vayelech – This is the shortest Sidra in the Torah containing only 30 verses. Aware that his impending death may have a demoralising effect, Moshe reassures the people of Israel, and addresses those famous words of encouragement to his successor Joshua – ‘Chazak Ve’ematz’ – ‘Be strong and courageous’. In his final address to the people, Moshe instructs them with regard to the last 2 Mitzvot (Commandments) in the Torah. The first known as ‘Hakhel’ (literally meaning to assemble) was an extraordinary assembly that was to take place every 7 years in the courtyard of the Temple when the King of Israel was to read selections from the Book of Devarim (Deuteronomy) to the entire gathered assembly of men, women and children. The last Mitzva is that each man should write his own Sefer Torah. These last 2 Mitzvot were to impress on us the centrality of Torah to our continued existence.