שביבי אש
לסדר נצבים

אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם כֻּלְּכֶם

You stand this day all of you (Deuteronomy 29:10)

An Agadic explanation: Why is this section (beginning with: "You stand this day") put in juxtaposition to the curses in the previous chapter? Because when Israel heard these ninety-eight curses besides the forty-nine that are contained in תורת כהנים (Leviticus 26), they became pale and asked in despair, "who can withstand all these?" Moses therefore began to soothe them by saying "You stand this day" (אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם).

But this explanation is difficult. Are the punishments mentioned in the previous chapter simply a matter of partiality or favoritism? And it appears to our master that an explanation may be found in the comment of the Ba'al ha-Turim: "you stand" (אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים) just as it is written (Exodus 19:17) "and they stood beneath the mountain" (וַיִּתְיַצְּבוּ בְּתַחְתִּית הָהָר).

Now, in the Talmud (Shabbat 88a) the Sages explain that this verse teaches us that the Almighty inverted the mountain (Sinai) over them like a cask and said, "if you accept the Torah, it is well, if not, there shall be your buria." They also said there that this verse furnishes a strong protest against the Torah (inasmuch as it was originally accepted under duress). Thus, when the Midrash says that Moses soothed them by saying "you stand here this day," he meant that since they had not willingly accepted the Torah, it was as if they were still standing beneath the mountain and were under duress. So if they did not observe the Torah, and were in jeopardy of the curses, they could be still excuse themselves, because they had never willingly agreed to accept the Torah.

Alternatively, one could explain the verb "standing" (נִצָּבִים) according to the explanation of the עקידת יצחק, that although each individual has the choice to follow the desire of his soul, the entire nation of Israel can never discard the yoke of the Torah, and the whole people cannot chose to depart from the paths of uprightness and follow the stubbornness of their heart. For should the entire nation of Israel stand upon a path that is not good and wish to do what is evil in the eyes of the Eternal and to despise the Holy One of Israel, He will install a harsh ruler like Haman, so that they will be moved to repent from their evil ways. It was in reference to this idea that it is written (Ezekiel 20:33): "As I live, says the Lord G-d, surely with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out, I will be king over you." And this is lesson of the verse "you stand this day all of you before the Lord your G-d," which means that the nation as a whole, if it wishes, may stand before the Eternal to fulfill the Torah. But should it refuse to do so, then, just as it was coerced into accepting the covenant at Mount Sinai, it will be compelled by force to fulfill the Torah and to stand before the Eternal.

הַנִּסְתָּרֹת לַה' אֱלֹקֵינוּ וְהַנִּגְלֹת לָנוּ וּלְבָנֵינוּ עַד עוֹלָם לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת כָּל דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת

The secret things belong to the Lord our G-d; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:28)

And it appears to our master that this verse may be explained according to the words of the Hatam Sofer in the last responsum on Yoreh Dei'ah, in which he questioned deeply to find out from where we know that the coming of the Messiah is one of the basic tenets of the faith. For concerning the ten tribes it is said (Deuteronomy 29:28) "and cast them into another land, as at this day" (וַיַּשְׁלִכֵם אֶל אֶרֶץ אַחֶרֶת כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה), which the Sages of the Talmud interpret to mean that just as this day does not return, so, too, the ten tribes will never return. Shall we say that the ten tribes, on that account, would be exempt from their obligation to fulfill the commandments of the Torah? And is it our duty to enjoy the benefits of the Torah? On the contrary, it is our obligation to make the will of the Eternal our desire. That is why after the Scripture writes "and cast them into another land" from which we infer that the ten tribes will never return, the Scripture then says: "The secret things belong to the Lord our G-d," which means that we should not question what will become of us or what our end will be if we do not return to our land, but instead remain in the diaspora for ever. The Scripture continues: "but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law," which means that even if the Eternal does not return our remnant forever, it is still incumbent upon us to fulfill all the words of this Torah whatever the trustworthy G-d decides to do with us.