Oxford Commentary on the Torah

Oxford Commentary on Nitzavim - Vayelech

Picture 1.png1. You are all[1] standing[2] this day[3] before the L-rd, your G-d[4] the leaders of[5] your tribes,[6] your elders[7] and your officers,[8] every man of Israel,[9]


[1] You are standing this day all of you: all of you regardless of your social standing in the community are equally standing facing the Lord, in order to enter into the new covenant (see verse 11). This had already been announced by Moses in the verses of our chapter leading up to this point. (Chizkuni)

[2] You are standing this day all of you before the eternal your G-d: The meaning thereof is that you are standing and ready before G-d to be initiated into His covenant. For, in order to accept the Torah with its interpretation, they had gathered before him [Moses], or they may have stood before the ark of G-d. The covenant was the oath and imprecation which he mentioned — ‘that you should enter into the covenant of the Eternal, your G-d, and into His oath.’ It is possible that he made another covenant with them like the first covenant which he made with them at Mount Sinai, namely, that he offered a burnt-offering on their behalf, and took half of the blood to sprinkle upon the altar and he sprinkled half of the blood upon the people, but it was unnecessary for him to mention this. And by way of the Truth, [the mystic teachings of the Cabala], I have already informed you of [the secret of] this covenant. (Nachmanides).

[3] You are all standing: this teaches us that on the day of his death, Moses assembled Israel in the presence of the Holy One, Blessed is He, to bring them into [His] covenant. (Rashi)

[4] Before the L-rd, your G-d: So that anyone who is capable of misleading me cannot mislead Him. You will accept this covenant in His presence, on His authority, not merely on mine. (Sforno)

[5] For cannot say that it means literally: ‘your tribes’ (shiv-tei-chem), because it states afterwards, again: ‘all of Israel’ (kol ish yisrael), rather, certainly, it has a missing ‘lamed,’ and it is as if it states: ‘your heads of the tribes’ (ro-she-chem l’shiv-te-chem). In this way, it makes sense: the more distinguished ones were mentioned first. If it reads literally ‘your tribes’ (shiv-tei-chem), it would be listing ‘your elders’ after ‘your tribes’ and ‘the more distinguished ones were mentioned first’ would be not be applicable. According to Nachmanides, ‘your elders’ and ‘your officers’ are explanations of ‘your heads,’ and ‘all of Israel’ explains ‘your tribes.’ This does seem correct to Rashi, however, for there is no need for the Torah to be ambiguous first and afterwards have to go back to clarify what it said earlier. (Be’er Mayim Chaim).

[6] Your heads: ‘Ro-she-chem’ (your heads) is similar to: ‘ha these latter are included under the sub-heading of ‘every householder in Israel’ (kol ish yisrael). (Da’at Zekeinim).

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.