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Revealing Divine Kingship and Jewish Unity
The Torah portion Nitzavim is always read prior to Rosh HaShanah1. When the portion Vayeilech is separated from Nitzavim and is read separately, it will be read on the Shabbos before Yom Kippur. This indicates that the portion Vayeilech is related to Yom Kippur.

What is the relationship?

Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur share a common theme: the arousal within G-d of a desire to choose the Jewish people as His subjects. Jews are thus inscribed and sealed for a new year filled with all manner of revealed and palpable good. The two days differ however, in that only the inscription for the new year occurs on Rosh HaShanah, while the actual sealing — the culmination of the process begun on Rosh HaShanah — takes places on Yom Kippur.2

The Alter Rebbe explains the connection of Nitzavim to Rosh HaShanah in this way:3 As previously mentioned, Rosh HaShanah is when G-d extends His kingship and dominion over the Jewish people.4 This is accomplished when Jews unite so that they are all as one.5

This concept of Jewish unity is also at the heart of the opening statement of Nitzavim : “Today you are all standing before G-d your L-rd — your leaders, your tribal chiefs… your woodcutters and water drawers.”6 The verse tells us that, notwithstanding the different levels of individual Jews, all stand united before G-d.

This aspect of Jewish unity is also the focal point of Vayeilech. The portion begins by saying that “Moshe went and spoke the following words to all Israel,”7 i.e., he spoke to all Jews in an identical fashion. The portion concludes with Moshe addressing “the entire assembly of Israel”8 — all of them together in a united manner.

Moreover, the commandments taught in Vayeilech — Hakhel and the writing of a Sefer Torah — are mitzvos that stress the unity of the Jewish people.

“Hakhel — Gather together the people”9 encompasses all Jews “men, women, children and proselytes”10 — equally. Indeed, that is why this commandment is termed Hakhel , which means “congregation.” In this case, those who congregate lose their individual identity and form an entirely new totality.

Writing a Sefer Torah , too, stresses the concept of unity, for while Jews differ greatly in their comprehension of Torah, all are equal with regard to writing a Sefer Torah.

Although the theme of both Nitzavim and Vayeilech is Jewish unity, there is a difference between these two Torah readings. As mentioned earlier, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur share a common feature, namely, the arousal within G-d of a desire to choose the Jewish people as His subjects. This theme begins on Rosh HaShanah, continues throughout the Ten Days of Penitence, and culminates on Yom Kippur.

The difference between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur in this regard will help us understand the differences in the unity of the Jewish people as expressed in Nitzavim and as expressed in Vayeilech.

Rosh HaShanah accomplishes Divine Kingship at its supernal source, while Yom Kippur completes the drawing down of this aspect so that it will be revealed in this world. Since all this is accomplished through Jewish unity, it follows that the same differences will exist with regard to Jewish unity.

Jewish unity on Rosh HaShanah is mainly that of Jews united Above — in their source and root; Yom Kippur expresses this unity down here below. Because of this, Jewish unity is expressed on Yom Kippur physically as well as spiritually.

Consider: There is no difference among Jews with regard to their observance of the Five Afflictions on Yom Kippur — the prohibition against eating, drinking, etc. Differences may exist between the performance of a good deed by a righteous person and the performance of the same deed by a simple person. However, with regard to a prohibitive command — not to eat, drink, etc. — all Jews are equal in their observance.

Herein lies the difference between Nitzavim and Vayeilech. While both address the theme of Jewish unity, Nitzavim speaks of uniting disparate levels of Jews, while the unity spoken of in Vayeilech is such that all Jews are addressed equally.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XIX, pp. 298-304.

FOOTNOTES

1. Rambam, Hilchos Tefilah 13:2; Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 428.
2. See Rosh HaShanah 16a-b.
3. Likkutei Torah , beginning of the Torah portion Nitzavim.
4. Rosh HaShanah 16a; ibid. 34b.
5. Likkutei Torah ibid.
6. Devarim 29:1.
7. Ibid. 31:1.
8. Ibid. verse 30.
9. Ibid. verse 12.
10. Ibid.
 

 


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