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Part 1

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- A Beth Hamidrach on the web!
- What is this web site for?
- How to study with your heart
- Beginners in Torah

Part 2 : TORAH,

- All 54 parashiot
Commentaries by Rav Yehoshua Rahamim Dufour based on the books of our Sages

- Song of Songs
How to successfully develop from the stage of nitsan
(the bud) to that of the adult (Jewish education and personal Jewish development)

Part 3

16 basic classes on the Talmud
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Part 4

Part 5

- Had gadya

In french

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

In french

Part 9

Part 10

- New year of beauty
- Happiness

In french
- Education
- Couple and Family

Part 11

In french
- The jewish flag

Part 12

In french

- Family names
- Ketubot
- Genealogy

Part 13 to 21

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A web site on how to study and live
Judaism, Torah and Talmud


Parasha No. 51 & 52
Nitzavim - Vayelekh:
“Ye are standing" - "And Moses went”

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 29, 9 - 31, 30

The entire people are assembled to enter the Covenant with Hashem


- Problem: love or malediction?
- Two mitzvot: union and adhesion
- Meaning of the 1st mitzva: the people
Meaning of the 2nd mitzva: the Sefer Torah
- The people, like the land, are the home of the divine presence
- Existential choices
- Love
- Today

- Is the entire Torah accessible?
- Man's power
- The source of happiness
- Abyss or Rahamim, the source of our salvation
- The rules of the game of life
- The indivisible triangle
- Israel maintains the world
- A people-creation
- The well-being of Israel is important for the world
- Those who doubt
- Union in joy
- Everyday union
- The importance of one's inner being
- Joy for the entire people

My answer
a wish
Personal development exercises
Recommended reading
For Advanced students

Listen to parasha Nitzavim
(Ashkenazi teanim on the Ort link)

Listen to the haftara of Vayelekh
(Sephardi teanim on the Ort link)

Rules for reading
the text in Hebrew

Hebrew vocabulary
according to subject


The way that the Jewish calendar is organized requires that, in most years, the two parashiot Nitzavim and Vayelekh are read together. This makes sense because they have a similar meaning and we shall therefore discuss them together.

The commentary on these parashiot is difficult and lengthy for several reasons:
" these parashiot represent the apex of the Torah, prior to its conclusion. After them, there remain only 2 parashiot;
" they focus on critical existential choices;
" their themes cannot be treated lightly or briefly, but require length and close attention.
" it is essential to read the two parashiot in their entirety (even in English) before studying this commentary;
" readers must be prepared not to understand everything immediately, to lose the thread at times and to forget certain parts. This is not something negative -- our neshama (soul) understands often when the intellect does not - and this stage is beneficial to the learning process. So it is important to persist, without worrying.



Problem: love or admonition?
The parashiot return to the subject of admonitions and obligations, while the haftarot (Isaiah 61 and Hosia 14) introduce a happy note which will enable us to understand the meaning of the parashiot.

Two mitzvot: union and adhesion

There are two mitzvot in parasha Vayelekh, and they are the last two in the Torah:

" mitzva 612 (Devarim 31, 10-12, hakel et ha am), Moshe commands "all Israel" to appear before Hashem to hear the Torah, old and young, rich and poor, men and women, everyone together;
" mitzva 613 (Devarim 31, 19 kitvu lakhem et ha shira hazot), the last in the Torah, commands [each member of the people] to write a sefer Torah (Torah scroll).

The Shla will help us to discover the connection between the two mitzvot.

The meaning of the first mitzva: the people
The first mitzva stresses the fact that the entire people constitute one unity, as with Jacob's family when they arrived in Egypt: it is written that they were as one nefesh, one spirit, in the singular (kol hanefesh, Bereshit 46,26).And when Moshe assembles the people, even those who are not there physically are present, which means all those who will join the people through conversion ("ve et asher einenu po imanu hayom, and also with him that is not here with us this day" Devarim 29, 14). For "the portion of Hashem is his people, helek Hashem amo" (Devarim 32, 9).

The meaning of the second mitzva
Just like the people, the Sefer Torah is one unity: if one letter is missing, or imperfect, the entire scroll loses its value and cannot be used until the mistake is rectified. It is the same for our people: each person who is lost to the people or who becomes a member of the people, adds or takes away value from the whole. This means everyone is worthy of respect, including those who wish to convert. Furthermore, each section of the Torah resembles the whole; thus the verse quoted above regarding the whole people applies to each individual.

It is therefore important to think about how these mitzvot apply to our relations with others and whether we reject any Jews or sections of the community.

The Torah begins with the letter beit (numerical value = 2) in order to show us that everything in creation has two components, like a married couple. Thus the apparently contradictory elements in the two mitzvot (Torah and people) cannot be separated. This is why the Torah must be read collectively and each Jew must write it down in his own style.

The people and the land are essential for the divine presence
The Shla tells us that these parashiot help us to understand the image of the chariot (merkava) supporting the divine presence in Ezekiel, chapters 1, 8, and 10. A chariot is not functional unless each of its four wheels are in perfect condition and operate in coordination.

The two, the land and the people, have an equal function -- to carry the divine presence. Man and divinity are united. This is why, says the Shla, the soil of the holy land (adama) and the name of man (adam) have the same root.

The letter he which ends the word adama, soil, refers more to the divine presence. This could be because the apparent passivity of nature reflects the Creator more, while the divine presence is only apparent in man if he consciously makes room for it. This is the theme of the parashiot.

Thus the three essential components - Torah-people-land as the dwelling places for the divine presence - are not the product of modern religious Zionism. They are the bases of the Torah.

Existential choices
One finds this inter-connection and coordination in parasha Haazinu, in the Song of Moshe, when he says (32, 5): shihet lo lo banav mumam, Is corruption His? No. His children's is the blemish." The Hebrew text plays on words (lo lo, the first lo meaning "Him" and the second meaning "No" in order to emphasize the choice between acceptance or rejection, between life or death, between happiness or affliction. This is the challenge which confront all Jews in every generation.

Rabbenu Bahya begins his commentary on the parasha by stressing the necessity of moral reprimand in love, for only this enables love to bloom and prevents it from withering. The curses spelt out should therefore be understood as a warning to man of the nefarious consequences that will befall him if he strays from the divine path. Readers should refer to the commentary on parasha Ekev.

The parasha stresses another point: choosing the right way does not mean choosing to follow a moral theory; it is a concrete choice which must be made "today" (hayom) and forever (read Devarim 30, 26-18).
The expression hayom represents a basic concept of Judaism: it appears 435 times in the Bible in this form, without counting other forms. In Vayelekh, see chapter 29 verses 9,11, 12, 14, 17 and chapter 30, verses 2, 8, 11, 15, 16, 18, 19. The divine presence is not virtual; it manifests itself now, in a concrete encounter enabled by the mitzvot and the good intentions of our hearts. Thus our bond with Hashem is an intimate, livint relationship, which continues forever.



Is the entire Torah accessible?

The parasha stresses the following:
" The entire Torah is accessible and applicable to our lives.
" It is not something esoteric or hidden (these things belong to God and are not in the Torah which is here with us). The Rambam deals with this question in his Introduction to the Torah.
" The Sages delved deep into the Torah in order to understand its complex issues (the resurrection of the dead, the messiah, the world to come, etc. ) and their interpretations vary, but these variations are unimportant for they highlight the richness of the mitzvot and the Torah.
" Each mitzva has different levels of meaning, varying from simple and apparent to complex and subtle, and these can be discovered through study. The same applies to the names of God in the Torah.
" In brief, the entire Torah is accessible to us, and can be understood by us, even at its highest levels of meaning.

The power of man

The parasha describes the extent of man's power, which in action, thought, feeling or prayer, can destroy or, in contrast, integrate the divine presence, which is the source of happiness.

[2nd level: short section for advanced students

The source of happiness

1. It is written in Nitzavim 30, 12: "mi yaale lanu hashamima, who will go up for us to heaven?" This phrase refers to man's tendency to flee from personal, communal and spiritual happiness on earth by seeking new ideologies and ways of salvation.

2. The answer is given in the acronym formed by the first letters of each word in the above phrase, which is mila, circumcision (Mi Iaale Lanu Ashamayim) and in the tetragram formed by the last letters of the phrase and constituting the supreme name of God. This shows us that, in contrast to the doctrines and ideologies that lead us to false messiahs and distance us from God, we have been shown in the Torah the concrete and corporal (mila) paths we must follow in order to connect with the divine elements which rule the world and all living beings. This teaches us that, for man, the only path which enables true comprehension of the Torah is the mila, circumcision.

Abyss or Rahamim, the source of our salvation
The parasha tells us that, even if we do all this, we still need to appeal to God's mercy (Rahamim), which is necessary when man strays or his qualities are insufficient.

The source of benediction opens by itself if man has done his best; he will be surprised to see that salvation will come from deep within himself, turning bad into good, as is written in Psalm 121: "meayin yavo ezri" which can be translated both as "from whence cometh my help" and "from the abyss cometh my help" (through His mercy) for this inaccessible level (ayin) is the source of all benediction, that of ratzon and of God's name Ehie, as noted by Rav Gikatilia in Shaarei Ora.
end of 2nd level]

The "rules of the game" of life

- These two parashiot, at the end of Devarim, the fifth book of the Torah, summarize the "rules of the game" of life and of the Torah.

- What appear to be benedictions and admonitions have a functional role: they demonstrate to man that he himself can freely open or close the source of benediction which God has made accessible to us, if we adhere to his instructions.

- The haftarot show us how happiness can be attained if these instructions are used wisely. And they depict man's ability to reverse terrible situations, once he understands this process.

[2nd level: short section for advanced students.
The above can be linked to the Shla's commentary on prayers. He begins his commentary on the Siddur, the book of prayers, with an affirmation that, he says, is the basis of all prayer. The name of God (Hashem), which is written in four letters in the Bible, is also written in four different ways, in four names. The gematria, numerical value of the letters in these four names, is 232. This "figure" represents the power and diversity of the creative process that sustains the world. A Jew who prays knows that when he articulates the different names of the Creator, he is actively helping to sustain the world through prayer.

The importance of what the Shla writes at the top (reshit) of his commentary is seen in the fact that the figure 232 is also the gematria of two other verses in the Torah and of two major concepts:
" that of the Torah, for the numerical value of the first word in God's creation ("yehi or, let there be light") is also 232;
" that of the presence of God among the people of Israel: ("ami leolam ve iadatem ki bekerev yisrael ani veani Hashem eloheihkem veein od, my people forever, ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am Hashem thy Elohim and there is none else," Yoel 2, 26-27 in the haftara of Vayilekh). The numerical value of the first letters of these words is also 232.
end of 2nd level]

The indivisible triangle
In his commentary, the Shla seeks to demonstrate the indivisibility of three elements: the name of the Creator, the action of creation in light, and Israel. Three concepts; three points as in the vowel point segol. Let us not forget that the people of Israel are am segula, the people of segol says the Zohar, who through these three points hold the past, the present and the future, just as in our prayers we use the three tenses: Hashem melekh (Hashem reigns), Hashem malakh (Hashem reigned), Hashem yimlokh (Hashem will reign).

Israel ensures the world's existence
This concept which links the people to the creation of the world, tells us that the people of Israel (in its entirety, klal, all the children of Israel, all Jews) ensure the existence and permanency of the world.

Thus the issue is not just about benedictions and admonitions for individuals or for the Jewish people, but it is about the maintenance of the world itself. For what is at stake is the link with the source of life itself.

This is a process of continual re-creation. Thus it is said that students of the Torah maintain the world in existence and ensure peace in the world.

Other nations refer to the same concept when they use the expression the "chosen people." The problem is that the word "chosen" has connotations of respect, jealousy and scorn and is a mistranslation of am segula which means "treasured people." But we cannot reproach those who are ignorant of the great role of the people of Israel or the richness of the Torah for making such a mistake. Moreover the conduct of Jews is not always the best example of this glorious role. One day, says the prophet, the nations will understand and will beg each Jew, saying: "initiate me in your knowledge which is so great."

A people-creation
It goes without saying this role, of maintenance and creativity, was not given to the Jewish people as a title, or as real estate, or as valuables to be deposited in a bank vault, or as book for one's library. The Jewish people only possess it to they extent that they adhere to the Torah in every aspect of their lives.

But even when a Jew lapses or choose to adhere to other values, his Creator does not abandon him.

From this we understand that our prayers, which are strictly organized in terms of daily rhythms, text, intentions, and physical positions, represent the score which this creative people follow in order to maintain optimal order and diffuse benediction in the world. This is perhaps the reason by many of the Psalms of David begin with the word lamenatzeah which means "to the conductor." The standard translation "to the chief musician" does not render the range expressed in the Hebrew.

Israel's well-being is important for the world
The perfect unity and complementarity of God-nation-individual-creation, which is the source of all happiness, is beautifully expressed in Psalm 96, 11, which every Jew knows: "yismehu hashamyim vetagel haaretz, let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad."

It is remarkable how even secular Jews sing this verse: it is universal in every sense of the word. This is because the well-being of every Jew is important for the people, for the nations of the world, and for all creation.

What do the words of this verse express, in addition to joy? They say that Hashem is present in all things, even if man does not see, know or wish to know this. How do they tell us this? Through the initials of each of the words in the verse, for together they form the name of Hashem: so we can then say:
"Blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee, asherei yoshevei veitekha" (Psalm 84, 5).

Those who doubt
But of what import is this invisible presence to man, when the one thing we are certain of is that it takes the form of an absence? This question does not only stem from the doubt which impregnates all existence. It also stems from a person's inability to hear that someone, a man or a woman, loves us. This is why we should constantly repeat: "Hear, Oh Israel…"

Union in joy
A person who does not profoundly feel and respond to someone's love, will not feel the love Hashem has for us, nor the beauty with which He has adorned nature and human beings.

Why do I say this with such conviction? Because, not only do the initial letters of these words of joy (yismehu hashamyim vetagel haaretz, let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad) represent the presence of Hashem, the final letters, when put together from the end, constitute the word tzalmo (in his image), which emphasizes the fact that man (woman and man as one being) was made in the image of his creator.

Everyday union
This means that a person who is sensitive to Hashem from the time of creation to "now," when He renews His creation at every moment, is in a union of joy with Hashem.

This is lived out in everyday life with the same simplicity as the sun slips into the sky and this is what the Shla tells us in: helek hashem amo (it is a part of Hashem His people).

One's inner being
This too is invisible, even more invisible than the presence of Hashem but it is important to search for the inner being in every Jew for this is the part of Hashem, part of the universal being made in His image.

Joy for the entire people
There is no happiness unless it includes the entire people. It must be expressed collectively. This is the basis for a healthy relationship between the Jewish people, the rest of the world, and God.

But this joy is not always expressed collectively. Jews have not yet had the time to truly feel this presence and spiritual joy, nor all that it represents in tradition. 50 years for a new state is short in terms of history, and these fifty years only involve a minority of the Jewish people.

Nor is it surprising to see that this approach of joy linked to Hashem is alien to modern man: few Jews truly feel sorrow at the destruction of Hashem's sanctuary which is on Har Habait (Temple Mount). The proof is that, after having won it back from the enemy who attacked us, we abandoned it to another people who are our rivals and who come to Jerusalem every week, chanting "let us go up to Jerusalem" in honor of God. The Temple Mount was not taken from us. It is our leaders who did not want it, for they were ignorant of its importance. In contrast, every Friday, thousands of Arabs and sometimes hundreds of thousands come to pray there. How many Jews come to pray at the Wall at the same time? This is like someone abandoning his love letters and letting someone else read them. The best we can and should do is to go and pray at the Wall, as has been the practice since the exile. Our Sages wisely write that the more our conscience and religious fervor decreases, the more that of other nations increases.



1. These two parashiot represent a poignant cry by Hashem: "choose life, love me for I love you, for I am your source and your joy." It is like the cry of a lover, while his beloved sleeps.

How many do not see that
" the heart of Judaism are the two cherubs who love each other face to face in the Holy of Holies,
" the heart of the Torah is Shir Hashirim (the Song of Songs),
" the shema Yisrael, the symbol of every Jew, is surrounded in the prayer book by the word ahava (love).
The Torah is about to reach its conclusion and Hashem makes his appeal and calls on the heavens and the earth as witnesses. He will repeat the whole story by linking the last letter of the Torah (the l of Israel) to the first letter ( the b of Bereshit) in order to base everything once again on the heart (lev), which is formed with the letters l and b.

So much time has been lost. What a waste!

Shir Hashirim, the Song of Songs, tells us this, but sometimes we do not wish to hear it.

2. Already, in the past the nations of the world did not want to listen to God and to accept the reality of the world as the garden of Eden and of love, so Hashem chose a small people who would hear Him. We must be deaf if we do not to hear the Torah's cry of: "choose life….to love Hashem thy God" (Devarim 30, 19).

3. The Sages tell us: Hakadosh Barukh Hu desires the prayers of the tzaddikim (Tractate Yevamot 64 a) or Hakadosh Barukh Hu desires the conversation of pious women, tzidkaniot (Jerusalem Talmud, Sotah 7 a) or Hakadosh Barukh Hu desires the blessings of the cohanim (Tractate Sotah 38 b).

4. Before he dies, Moshe wants to make us understand this love and this need for love: the book of Devarim is, as a result, the most tender and poignant of all the books of the Torah.

5. The Zohar uses its poetry and mysticism to transmit the same message: "Ribbi
Shimon bar Yohai said: collective prayer rises towards Hakadosh Barukh Hu and becomes a crown of many colors on the head of He who is righteous and eternal, while the prayer of an individual becomes a crown of just one color" (I, 167 b).

6. The haftarot also use poetical and musical tools to show us the beauty of a life of communal love with Hakadosh Barukh Hu.

7. As the end of the Song of Songs says, what can He who loves and gives everything
(Hakadosh Barukh Hu) do when someone does not love in return or give with all his heart (Song of Songs 8, 7): even if he gave all his possessions, he would only be met with scorn for Hashem desires the heart.

But He hopes that his people will wake up and say: karmi sheli lefanai ("My vineyard, which is mine is before me" ibid 8, 12).

My answer

1. He who does not choose life will view the world and his own life as a failure (keshel) and will only see the first letters (keshel) of the three words of the phrase karmi sheli lefanai (my vineyard is before me, ibid 8, 12).

2. Man must raise his eyes in order to see the world through the eyes of God, from His place and His makom. This is what the Torah teaches us: "essa einai el he arim meayin yavo ezri, I will life up mine eyes unto the hills (or unto the patriarchs or the heavens) from whence cometh my help" (Psalm 121, 1). This seems to direct us to void and emptiness (ain) but this is the experience on which life is based, not on immediate sensations of fullness. Only the experience of want and lack of knowledge allows man to attain plenitude. And it sharpens the conscience.

3. We can now understand why Hashem said to Avram (Bereshit 13, 14-15): sa na einekha u ree min ha makom asher ata sham tzafona vanegva vayama, ki et kol haaretz asher ata roe lekha atenena u lezarakha ad olam. Hashem asks of Avram: "Lift up now thine eyes and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward. For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever." To paraphrase, this means that Hashem tells us: "Raise your eyes from the place where you live to the place which is your source, to Me, and from there you will see all of life in all its facets, and through the bond between you and Me, this land which you see will become yours and you will acquire the knowledge to pass it on to your children, and they to their children."
This is what Avraham succeeded in doing, when he understood the lesson of the akeda (sacrifice): he saw from afar and understood the true meaning of the place of Hashem (Bereshit 22, 4), the place of true vision which is simultaneously that of Hashem and of man. His servants, for their part, could not see what he saw (Bereshit 22, 5).

4. The dilemmas faced by Jews are even more pertinent today than in the past. The Jew has returned to the land of Israel but the questions he face remain the same: does he see, does he hear, does he love, does he choose LIFE, life according to His Torah?

5. Avraham showed us the right way: he discovered that the world is truly based on happiness, love, and hessed and not on the superficiality and brutality of economic, physical or political forces that are called reality but which our Sages call emptiness and vanity (see the poem, The Three Suns).

Having understood that reality is based on love, Avraham, the prototypal Jew, re-created the process of creation both in the physical world and in the world of human relationships (behibaram, Avraham).



The question presented to Jews is: "I have placed before you life and death, choose life" (Devarim 30, 19). "To be" (in the full sense of the word and not just to "exist") or "not to be" is the essential question, as Shakespeare well understood. For Jews "to be" means to live simultaneously in all our dimensions (people, creation, Hashem).

The is the challenge that every Jew has to face and he must do it on his own. This is exemplified by our father Avraham, the re-creator of the world, of whom it is said (Ezekiel 33, 24):
ehad yaha Avraham vayirash et haaretz
"Avraham was one and he inherited the land."
This has nothing to do with the choices made by a democratic majority.

Tradition says that he was yahid -- simultaneously whole, unique, connected and alone. The Torah has given us in Avraham the model which we should follow every day. This is why we describe his struggles at the very beginning of the daily prayers (read the akeda, Bereshit 22) and why he is named at the top of the Amida prayer (God of Avraham, Eloke Avraham).


A wish

Let us wish that everyone can attain this complex wholeness,
and achieve unity between these different dimensions of love (Hashem-Torah-people-ourselves).
And may this unity be acknowledged and loved by others, especially those we need in our neshama.

Then this intimacy will be in harmony with the other colors,
like the sapphire blue which links us in an unbroken line with the sea, the horizon, the sky and finally the supreme throne above, as is described in Tractate Hulin 89 a.


Exercises for personal development

1. This parasha requires in-depth reflection on a number of essential points. Readers should make note of them, study and discuss them with others.
2. Questions on the Torah which relate to ourselves:
" How do we view life and death?
" Is life as described by the Torah at the center of own lives?
" Do we feel in harmony with the different elements that make up the Jewish people, or do they seem alien to us? Do we really know them? Do we make disparaging remarks about them? Consider how this can harm the Sefer Torah and Hashem.

Recommended reading
Re-read the parasha and look up all the references.

For advanced students
Read the Ramban's introduction to his commentary on the Torah.
Refer to the sources that are cited in it.

In reference to hessed, the way to life and the way to death, see the poem and picture A night for Three Suns.


- Psychology and Repentance
   (in french)

Part 15

Part 16

- Jerusalem excavations
- Terror and counseling
- Peace and peoples
- Israel and Iran
- Visual study & song on snow
for, through our union with the song of nature, the plan of Creation will be fulfilled

Poem: to be moon

In french

Avec Modia, vivez
vos vacances en Israël,
Texte et photos

- Par Modia, arrivez au Kotel
- La vie du Kotel
- Prières au Kotel
- Fête au Kotel
- La destruction du Temple
- Photos rares et émouvantes des abords du Temple
- Synagogues de Jérusalem
- Maisons de Jérusalem
- Les fleurs de Jérusalem
- Ici, tout sur Jérusalem
- "Le" texte sur Jérusalem
- Voir et visiter Israël
- Voyage dans le Nord d'Israël
- Belle carte d'Israël
- Jérusalem et les nations

- Vacances en Israël sur Modia
- Le Kotel en film direct
- et ici aussi, autre caméra

- Trahison historique:
L'antique synagogue de Jéricho


Part 17

- Love towards all people
- Light in war
- Before the hanukiah
- Land of Israel
- Jerusalem excavations 2007
  Proof of the lies propagated
  by the media

In french - Hope in Israel

Part 20
"Encounters with God
in the real"

- You are planning a tour in Israel - Photos
- My photos and judaism
- New year of beauty
- Flowers
Gallery photos

Part 21

- My english songs


Rav Professor
Yehoshua Rahamim Dufour
(Dipur, in hebrew)

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