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Blueprint of Creation

Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20 )

by Rabbi Ozer Alport

Since the Torah is the blueprint for the entire Creation, it inherently contains within it allusions to everything which will ever exist or occur in the universe. The Vilna Gaon explains that the Torah's recounting of the episode of Creation contains the events which transpired in the first 1,000 years of history, with the second 1,000 years hidden in the remainder of Genesis, the third 1,000 years in Exodus, the fourth 1,000 years in Leviticus, the fifth 1000 years in Number, and the final 1,000 years in Deuteronomy.

Since the Book of Deuteronomy contains 10 parshas (counting Nitzavim and Vayeilech as one, as they are often read together as a double portion), each portion hints to the events of one century of the sixth millennium. Based on this explanation of the Vilna Gaon, it has been noted that the early years of the Holocaust, the greatest national tragedy in modern history, fall out in the century which is hinted to in Parshas Ki Savo, which contains words of rebuke and hair-raising threats of terrible suffering which will befall the Jewish people.

However, consolation may be found by recognizing that we are currently living in - the century which corresponds to Parshas Nitzavim-Vayeilech, which is commonly referred to as the portion of repentance (Deut. 30:2). Not surprisingly, the years since World War II have seen an extraordinary wave of uneducated Jews returning to their roots on an unprecedented scale, precisely as predicated by the Torah.

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The Ponovezher Rav once traveled to South Africa to strengthen and encourage the Jews there in their religious observance. Prior to his journey, he asked his teacher, the illustrious Chafetz Chaim, what message he should relate to the Jews there in the name of the leader of the generation.

The Chafetz Chaim replied that he should tell them that it is actually quite easy to do the mitzvah of teshuva - repentance. The minimum requirements to fulfill this obligation are few and are within the reach of every Jew: ceasing to transgress, confessing one's past actions and expressing regret over them, and accepting upon oneself not to transgress again. Unfortunately, the evil inclination attempts to convince a person that proper repentance is so difficult and involves so many complex components that he will never succeed in correctly doing so, thereby causing him to give up the effort without even trying.

In this vein, Rabbi Nosson Wachtfogel notes that in our verse (Deut. 30:14), Moshe describes one of the commandments as not being hidden or distant from a person. It isn't in the heavens or across the sea as one might have thought, but rather it is very close - in one's mouth and heart. What is this commandment which a person might mistakenly conclude is so far beyond him that its observance requires him to travel thousands or millions of miles, yet in reality the keys to its performance lie inside of him? Not surprisingly, Nachmanides writes that the mitzvah to which Moshe is referring is the mitzvah of teshuva.

The Talmud (Kiddushin 49b) discusses a case in which a wicked man betroths a woman on the condition that he is completely righteous. Surprisingly, the Talmud rules that she may be legally engaged, explaining that perhaps he had thoughts of repentance in the moment prior to his proposal. We may derive from here that a person can literally transform himself from one extreme to the other in a mere moment of sincere reflection and regret, a lesson which should inspire and motivate us during the approaching High Holidays.

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Moshe reminded the people (Deut. 29:15-16) of the abominable idols which they saw in Egypt and other lands through which they passed. Why was it necessary to warn them against worshipping these idols if they themselves had witnessed how deplorable they were?

The Brisker Rav (Nesivos Rabboseinu) answers that exposure to something sinful and forbidden such as idols, even if a person intellectually recognizes that it is vile and repugnant, still leaves an emotional impression. Although one's initial reaction is to be repulsed, his senses are also dulled in the process and the next time that he sees them his response won't have the same intensity and he may even be convinced that they're not so problematic after all.

After sufficient exposure, he may even come to see positive qualities in them, and for this reason Moshe had to warn the people against worshipping the idols, which they had originally viewed as detestable but to which they may have become desensitized over time.

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