Nitzavim-Vayeilech

In Moshe’s final address to the nation, he informs them about the future and how they need to face their responsibilities:

ה’ אֱ-לֹ-הֶיךָ הוּא עֹבֵר לְפָנֶיךָ הוּא יַשְׁמִיד אֶת הַגּוֹיִם הָאֵלֶּה

Hashem, your G-d; He will cross you over, He will destroy the nations before you. (31:3)The Ohr Hachaim HaKadosh, picks up on the double usage of the word hu.
The Ohr HaChaim explains that the Jews were concerned about the loss of Moshe, specifically about two advantages of having Moshe “in their corner” that they would no longer possess:

1. As Moshe had demonstrated by, among others, Cheit HaEigel and the Meraglim, Moshe was willing to intercede on their behalf if they erred. His teffilos had halted deadly plagues and prevented their destruction. Fearful that they would err again in the future, they wondered – who would atone for their sins?

2. Bnei Yisrael would be waging wars to conquer Eretz Yisrael, and they worried how they would defeat their enemies without Moshe’s help, with his arms raised high in the air, ensuring victory as he did against Amaleik, and for leading the most recent victories over Sichon and Og…

Sometimes when a leader or a great athlete (l’havdil) steps down or retires, he wants to take all the credit for himself, for his illustrious career and crowning accomplishments. The best milestone/MVP/retirement/ Hall of Fame induction, etc. speeches, however, are the ones in which the athlete thanks his parents, coaches, teammates, family, friends, and perhaps deity of choice. Athletes who just want to brag about themselves demonstrate a complete lack of perspective and appreciation.

L’havdil eleph alphei havdalos, Moshe Rabbeinu, always staying true to form as the most humble man to ever live, both comforts and teaches the nation – in his final address – about where everything came from: Hashem.

Moshe addresses the first concern by telling them that they were forgetting about the source. It was never about Moshe.
הוּא עֹבֵר לְפָנֶיךָ – the word oveir invokes Hashem’s characteristic of being an  עובר על פשע
The Ohr HaChaim brings a couple proofs from Shmot 17:5 and 32:10, that demonstrate that it was Hashem’s “idea” that encouraged Moshe to pray for Bnei Yisrael. Hashem’s willingness and desire to forgive would remain, even after Moshe’s departure from this world.

The same holds true for the battles that were won on the path from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael; Moshe was a conduit, but Hashem was behind everything and delivering our enemies into our hands.

Moshe then says that Yehoshua will now be the one who will fight for them, in both instances, but always know that the source of forgiveness and success is Hashem.

With so much in Parshiot Nitzavim and Vayeilech about teshuva, and the proximity of these parshiot every year to the Yamim Noraim, perhaps a lesson here is about an important focus during this time. Without taking an iota of importance or reverence from rabbeim or the chazzan leading slichot or any of the teffilot on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, ultimately teshuva comes from Hashem. Teshuva cannot be attained only from listening to a good shiur or standing in shul listening to others. Those are incredibly important conduits and bridges to help us get to the proper place to daven for teshuva. A big chunk of our avodah, however, is a focus on our own personal teffilos and the meanings and feelings behind the words we say in davening. Assistance from others is amazing, but there has to be a level of our own effort.

Another interesting occurrence in this incredibly poignant moment in the Torah, happens in the next few p’sukim in Perek 31.
In 31:6, Moshe tells Bnei Yisrael to be strong, not to fear, for Hashem is with them; He will not fail you and not forsake you
חִזְקוּ וְאִמְצוּ אַל תִּירְאוּ וְאַל תַּעַרְצוּ מִפְּנֵיהֶם  כִּי ה אֱ-לֹ-הֶיךָ הוּא הַהֹלֵךְ עִמָּךְ לֹא יַרְפְּךָ וְלֹא יַעַזְבֶךָּ

Then in the next passuk Moshe calls to Yehoshua and tells him basically the exact same thing: 31:7-8

…וַיִּקְרָא מֹשֶׁה לִיהוֹשֻׁעַ וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו לְעֵינֵי כָל יִשְׂרָאֵל חֲזַק וֶאֱמָץ
 וַה’ הוּא הַהֹלֵךְ לְפָנֶיךָ  הוּא יִהְיֶה עִמָּךְ לֹא יַרְפְּךָ  וְלֹא יַעַזְבֶךָּ לֹא תִירָא  וְלֹא תֵחָת

A beautiful example of our mesorah in action and of selfless encouragement, is found in virtually identical wording between Dovid HaMelech and Shlomo. Divrei Hayamim I, Perek 32 records Dovid speaking about Hashem prohibiting him from building the Beis HaMikdash. Instead, Shlomo, his son, would have that prestigious honor. Dovid tells his son, in Divrei Hayamim I 28:20:

חֲזַק וֶאֱמַץ וַעֲשֵׂה אַל תִּירָא וְאַל תֵּחָת כִּי ה’ אֱ-לֹ-הִים אֱ-לֹ-הַי עִמָּךְ לֹא יַרְפְּךָ וְלֹא יַעַזְבֶךָּ עַד לִכְלוֹת כָּל מְלֶאכֶת עֲבוֹדַת בֵּית ה

Looks kinda familiar.

Moshe being denied entry to Eretz Yisrael is akin to Dovid being denied permission to build the Beis HaMikdash. Dovid takes a cue from Moshe, who also had to relinquish a dream to a successor (Yehoshua was like a son to Moshe and Shlomo was of course Dovid’s son). Dovid implements the identical language used by his holy forefather, and, like Moshe, he hands off his position with grace and encouragement.
Dovid perpetuates the mesorah and midos of Moshe, inculcating the next generation with those same lessons.

 

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