Friday, September 11, 2009

posts so far for parshat Nitzavim


  1. Nitzavim sources -- improved
  2. Does Hashem have nostrils? Do they smoke?  I think the Samaritans emended the text because they were uncomfortable with the imagery. Does Rashi endorse a non-corporeal God with his comment?
  3. Length of days -- Does it refer to long life, or long dwelling in the land of Israel?

  1. Nitzavim sources, once again. This time with a whole slew of meforshim on the parsha and haftara, organized into sections like midrash, Ibn Ezra and his supercommentators, masorah, and so on.

  2. Is Sefer HaTorah masculine or feminine? Discussing Rashi's explanation of the changing between zeh and zot on the basis of the placement of a tipcha.

  3. Did the Canaanites fool Moshe in the same way the Giveonites did? Trying to understand Rashi, and the way he understood or interpreted the midrash.

  4. Were spirits of future generations present during the covenant in Nitzavim? Tanchuma says yes, but Ibn Ezra doesn't think it is necessary. Abarbanel reinterprets the midrash using philosophical derash, but I don't find it compelling. And I explain how the Tanchuma may have parsed the pasuk differently in order to arrive at this derash.

  5. The trup on the big nose -- how it should be parsed in accordance to the trup, and how it would be parsed if we follow how Shadal would rewrite it if he had his druthers.


  1. Nitzavim sources, that is links by perek and aliyah to an online mikraos gedolos.

  2. Nitzavim as standing or remaining, as a nice blend of peshat and the theme of drash.


  • A source for birchat haTorah

  • The Torah Is Not In The Heavens
    • I suggest that pshat in this instance is the interpretation of the allegory, and that, as a continuation of "it is not too difficult," it means that it is accessible to you.
      The Midrash will take it hyperliterally to refer to Moshe's ascending Mt Sinai, and adds:

      Moshe said to them, "that you should not say that another Moshe will stand and bring us another Torah from heaven, I therefore preempt this by informing you that there is not left of it in heaven."
      What motivated this midrash? Perhaps this a response to Christians, or to false prophets trying to innovate new law. Also, the "of course" factor - the Jews know Moshe took the Torah from heaven, so what is he adding?
      The Midrash adds other explanation, highlighting the completeness of the Torah brought down - it and the crafts of its trade - humility, righteousness, and uprightness, and the giving of its reward.
      Finally, an anti-Torah u-Madda explanation from Shmuel, who was an astrologer. The Torah is not found in astrologers, whose craft is in {looking at} the heaven. When they protested that Shmuel himself was an astrologer, he responded that he only studied astrology when in the bathhouse. I observe that studying secular matters in the bathroom is a good strategy for increasing time for learning. Note that Shmuel agrees to the value of learning secular subjects such as science, but only at a time when one could not otherwise be learning Torah.

  • A Midrashic Source for Daf Yomi
    • As mentioned above, with the Torah not being in the heavens referring to accessibility/attainability, the Midrash discusses various psukim as referring to Torah seeming unattainable and how one can attain it. Read it all in the post, but it ends with an idea similar to Daf Yomi:

      Rabbi Yannai said, to what is this matter comparable? To a loaf of bread which is suspended in the air {presumably from a string from the ceiling}. The fool says, "who is able to bring it?" And the rational man says, "Did not someone suspend it there?" {And if someone was able to access that space to suspend it there then it must be possible for others to access it as well.} He brings a ladder, or a pole, and brings it {down}. So too he who is foolish says "When will I {have time to} read all the Torah.

      And he who is rational, what does he do? He learns a single perek {chapter} every day until he finishes the entirety of Torah.

      So says Hashem, לֹא-נִפְלֵאת הִוא מִמְּךָ, " it is not too hard for thee." That is, לֹא-נִפְלֵאת הִוא, "it is not too hard." And if it is too hard, מִמְּךָ, "it is from you" that you are not invliving yourself in it. This is what is meant by the verse כִּי הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת.
  • רָאשֵׁיכֶם שִׁבְטֵיכֶם
    • "Your tribes" breaks the order of progression from upper to lower classes. After offering my own improbable suggestion, I go through some of the interesting possibilities.
      smichut to mean the heads of your tribes.
      Ramban: Both רָאשֵׁיכֶם and שִׁבְטֵיכֶם are general (
      klal), and the continuation in this and the next verse elaborate.
      Seforno: שִׁבְטֵיכֶם = רָאשֵׁיכֶם
      שִׁבְטֵיכֶם a has at its root שבט, staff, and means leader; The heads who have the shevet, staff, of ruling. (Think of the parallel מטה.)
      Tg Yonatan: Like Seforno, but רָאשֵׁיכֶם of Sanhedrin, שִׁבְטֵיכֶם = officers.

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