Parasha Inspiration – Nitzavim

כִּ֚י הַמִּצְוָ֣ה הַזֹּ֔את אֲשֶׁ֛ר אָֽנֹכִ֥י מְצַוְּךָ֖ הַיּ֑וֹם לֹֽא־נִפְלֵ֥את הִוא֙ מִמְּךָ֔ וְלֹֽא־רְחֹקָ֖ה הִֽוא: לֹ֥א בַשָּׁמַ֖יִם הִ֑וא לֵאמֹ֗ר מִ֣י יַֽעֲלֶה־לָּ֤נוּ הַשָּׁמַ֨יְמָה֙ וְיִקָּחֶ֣הָ לָּ֔נוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵ֥נוּ אֹתָ֖הּ וְנַֽעֲשֶֽׂנָּה: וְלֹֽא־מֵעֵ֥בֶר לַיָּ֖ם הִ֑וא לֵאמֹ֗ר מִ֣י יַֽעֲבָר־לָ֜נוּ אֶל־עֵ֤בֶר הַיָּם֙ וְיִקָּחֶ֣הָ לָּ֔נוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵ֥נוּ אֹתָ֖הּ וְנַֽעֲשֶֽׂנָּה: כִּֽי־קָר֥וֹב אֵלֶ֛יךָ הַדָּבָ֖ר מְאֹ֑ד בְּפִ֥יךָ וּבִלְבָֽבְךָ֖ לַֽעֲשׂתֽוֹ:

For this commandment which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?” Rather,[this] thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.

Devarim 30:11-14

In the days of Herod, King of Y’hudah, there was a cohen named Z’kharyah who belonged to the Aviyah division. His wife was a descendant of Aharon, and her name was Elisheva. Both of them were righteous before God, observing all the mitzvot and ordinances of Adonai blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elisheva was barren; and they were both well along in years.

Luke 1:5-7

This week’s Torah portion gives us what may be the most important commandment in all Torah. Yes, we are to love Hashem, and we are to love our neighbor, but fulfilling these commitments is contingent upon the idea that the commandments of Hashem can be fulfilled. In other words, we can do this, it is within our capability. Many have been taught that fulfilling Hashem’s mitzvot is an impossible task. Torah is very explicit that this is not the case. We can do it, and we should do it.

The portion also gives us a bit of guidance with regard to interpretation of Torah. That is, that Hashem does not give us commandments that we cannot do. There are no impossible commandments. This is important in understanding how to do mitzvot that Hashem has commanded us. For instance, it means that women are not bound to filling mitzvot that are both time related and positive. We would have mitzvot that contradict each other. If this is the case, they would be impossible. This week’s portion assures us that Hashem does not give us impossible commandments. Therefore, if a commandment is both positive and time related, women are not required to follow it. Likewise, men are not required to fulfill the commandments of Niddah. It is impossible for men to do this. In this week’s Torah portion, we understand that Hashem does not give us commandments that are impossible.

In Luke 1, the parents of John the Baptist are described as being righteous and observing all Hashem’s mitzvot. It is important to note this, it is possible to fulfill all of Hashem’s commandments. Zakhariyah and Elisheva obeyed all of Hashem’s commandments, so can we. Shabbat shalom.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.