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Nitzavim-Vayelech 5769

Nitzavim-Vayelech (Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! There are still 2 weeks to Rosh Hashanah. Here are some helpful ideas:


1. Take a spiritual accounting. Each day take at least 5 minutes to review your last year - (a) your behavior with family, friends, associates and people with whom you've interacted, and (b) your level of mitzvah observance.

2. Attend a class or classes at a synagogue, Aish center, a yeshiva on how to prepare. Read articles on and listen to world-class speakers on Buy the Artscroll book Rosh HaShanah.

3. Study the Machzor (Rosh Hashanah prayer book) to know the order of the service and the meaning of the words and prayers. You can buy a copy of the Rosh Hashanah Yom Kippur Survival Kit, by Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or call 877-758-3242).

4. Make sure that you have given enough tzedakah (charity) and have paid your pledges (one is supposed to give 10% of his net income). It says in the Machzor that three things break an evil decree - Teshuva (repentance), Tefilla (prayer) and Tzedakah (charity). Why not maximize your chance for a good decree?

5. Think of (at least) one person you have wronged or feel badly towards -and correct the situation.

6. Make a list of your goals for yourself and your family - what you want to work towards and pray for.

7. Limit your pleasures - the amount of television, movies, music, food -do something different so that you take this preparation time seriously. Then, increase your Torah learning!

8. Do an extra act of kindness - who needs your help? To whom can you make a difference?

9. Read a book on character development - anything written by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin would be great!

10. Ask a friend to tell you what you need to improve. A real friend will tell you ... but in a nice way!


1) Five minutes of prayer said with understanding, feeling, and a personal connection to the words and their significance means far more than five hours of lip service.

2) "Unfulfilled expectations lead to self-imposed frustrations." Therefore, don't expect to be "moved" by every prayer or to follow along with the entire service.

3) Read through the prayers and slowly think about what you're saying and don't be overly concerned about being behind. Look, the worst that could happen is that you will fall behind, but don't worry, they'll probably announce the pages so you can always catch up.

4) If a particular sentence or paragraph touches you - linger a while. Say the words over and over to yourself - softly, but audible to your ears. Allow those words to touch you. Feel them. And, if you're really brave, then close your eyes and say those words over and over for a couple of moments.

5) You're not that proficient in Hebrew? Don't worry, God understands whatever language you speak. And, like a loving parent, God can discern what's in your heart even if you can't quite express it the way you would like.

6) As you sit in your synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, you are joined by millions of Jews in synagogues all other the world. You are a Jew and you are making a powerful statement about your commitment to Judaism and the Jewish people!



  1. When do I most feel that my life is meaningful?
  2. If I could change only one thing about myself, what would that be?
  3. If I could change one thing about my spiritual life, what would it be?
  4. Are there any ideals I would be willing to die for?
  5. If I could live my life over, would I change anything?


For more on "Rosh Hashana" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week
Nitzavim & Vayelech

On the day of Moshe's death he assembles the whole Jewish people and creates a Covenant confirming the Jewish people as the Almighty's Chosen People (chosen for responsibility to be a light to the nations) for all future generations. Moshe makes clear the consequences of rejecting God and His Torah as well as the possibility of repentance. He reiterates that Torah is readily available to everyone.

Nitzavim concludes with perhaps the clearest and most powerful statement in the Torah about the purpose of life and the existence of free-will: "I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil ... the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life that you may live, you and your descendants." (Now that's a real Quote of the Week!)

Vayelech begins with Moshe passing the torch of leadership to Yehoshua (Joshua). Moshe then gives Yehoshua a command/blessing which applies to every Jewish leader: "Be strong and brave. Do not be afraid or feel insecure before them. God your Lord is the One who is going with you, and He will not fail you nor forsake you."

Moshe writes the entire Torah and gives it to the Cohanim and Elders. He then commands that in the future at the end of the Shmita (Sabbatical Year) the king should gather all the people during Succot festival and read to them the Torah so "... that they will hear and learn and fear the Lord your God and be careful to perform all the words of the Torah."

The Almighty describes in a short paragraph the course of Jewish history (that's starting from Deuteronomy 31:16 for the curious). Lastly, before Moshe goes to "sleep with his forefathers," he assembles the people to teach them the song of Ha'azinu, the next weekly Torah portion, to remind them of the consequences of turning against the Almighty.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Regarding a warning against idolatry, the Torah states:

"And it will be when he hears the words of this curse and he will bless himself in his heart saying, 'There will be peace unto me for I will go as my heart sees fit' " (Deut. 29:18).

Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman used to quote his rebbe, the Chofetz Chaim, that this refers to someone who doesn't just do an improper act because of an impulse. Rather, he makes an entire ideology out of cruelty and the right to harm others - he makes a whole new set of rules for himself that are diametrically opposed to Torah principles. The next verse (Deuteronomy 29:19) illustrates that this is a very serious offense! It is not that the person just happened to do something that was wrong.

There are people who cause others emotional pain in various ways and when they are rebuked, they claim, "I always do this. This the way those people should be treated." If someone creates for himself principles that are based on selfishness and callousness, he will not merely cause suffering just a few times. He will repeat what he does over and over again. Since he has not lost his temper, but premeditatedly decides to act this way, he will not regret the harm he causes. Our behavior towards others should not be based on our faults and negative character traits formulated into a policy. We must study the Torah to know the elevated behavior that is our obligation and then incorporate the Torah standards into our life.


CANDLE LIGHTING - September 11
(or go to

Jerusalem 6:11
Guatemala 5:59 - Hong Kong 6:13 - Honolulu 6:20
J'Burg 5:40 - London 7:07 - Los Angeles 6:48
Melbourne 5:49 - Mexico City 7:24 - Miami 7:12
New York 6:55 - Singapore 6:47 - Toronto 7:19


If you don't have a goal ...
you can't fulfill it.


In Honor of

Harvey & Sheila Hecker

With Deep Appreciation
and Admiration


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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Copyright Rabbi Kalman Packouz 2009

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