Divrei Torah

PARSHAS NITZAVIM 5779

In the beginning of this week’s parsha, Moshe tells the people, “All of you are standing before G-d, the heads of your tribes, your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel . . . Your children, your wives, and your strangers that are in the midst of your camp, from the hewers of wood until those who draw water.” 

The Torah lists all those to whom Moshe was talking. However, there appears to be a couple of difficulties with this list. Why is it necessary to mention “the heads of your tribes, your elders and your officers”, followed by “all the men of Israel”. Aren’t those in the list included in “all the men of Israel”? 

In addition, at the end of the list, the Torah seems to give a summary. Instead of writing “from the hewers of wood until those who draw water” which seems to be all the people in the lower end of society, the Torah should have stated “from the great scholars to those who draw water”. What is the Torah indicating with the words “from the hewers of wood until those who draw water”?

By listing the people as he does, perhaps Moshe is teaching us that every Jew plays a vital role in the development of the Jewish people. You need heads of the tribes, elders to teach Torah and officers to control the society. But, “all the men of Israel” also play a key role. They are needed to support those who study the Torah and lead the community . . . they are needed to assist the leaders in developing and implementing programs on behalf of the community . . . they are needed in the shul and Bais Midrash. 

“From the hewers of wood until those who draw water” – water represents the Torah. “From the blue-collar workers until those who teach Torah” – the workers are listed first. By assisting the Torah scholars and Torah leadership, not only do the members of the community learn from them, in a certain sense they become greater than the leaders because the programs would not happen without them. 

We are all standing today – every single person - in front of G-d – on the doorstep of Rosh Hashana. Nobody knows what the new year will bring. G-d is serving us a full plate. We worry about Israel and the threat from Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, the unrest in Syria and around the world in general, crime, morality or lack thereof, family, friends, and on and on. 

Despite the best efforts of our enemies and against all odds, the Jewish people have made it this far because of G-d’s promise to us that we will always be around. During the High Holiday season, every person has an opportunity to continue to build the Jewish people and accomplish so much positive benefit for the Jewish people and society with the numerous opportunities to daven, give tzedaka, do chesed and build relationships. Let us take advantage of the opportunity – participate in shul and other Jewish organizations - and may G-d bless us all with a year of health and happiness – a good and sweet year.