Unlike other combined Torah portions, Nitzavim and Vayeilech are essentially one.
Thus R. Sadya Gaon writes
that "when necessary, there is one Torah portion that is read on two Shabbasos, this being the portion of Nitzavim, which is divided at Vayeilech Moshe."
A name in Lashon HaKodesh denotes the content of the entity. Understandably, this also applies to Nitzavim and Vayeilech. Yet the words Nitzavim and Vayeilech connote two diametrically opposed concepts.
Nitzavim means standing firmly in place. Vayeilech, on the other hand, means to go from place to place.
How then are we to understand that Nitzavim and Vayeilech are essentially the same Torah portion?
Divine service is predicated on the notion that there must be two distinct kinds of service: a standing steadfast - Nitzavim; and a constant evolution from level to level - Vayeilech.
This is the case with regard to all aspects of spiritual service: Torah, prayer, and mitzvos.
The Torah is divided into the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. The Written Torah was given in a strictly delineated manner, with a specific number of words and letters, and is not subject to change.
The Oral Torah, however, was revealed to us through the Sages as they expounded on the Written Torah according to the principles used in elucidating it. In their analyses, one word or even one letter of the Written Torah can serve as the basis for a lengthy exposition. With its constant and ongoing deliberations and explanations, the Oral Torah expanded from generation to generation.
So too with regard to prayer. In a general sense, prayer is a daily command incumbent on every individual. On the other hand, prayer is deemed a "service of the heart," and no two hearts are alike. Even the feelings within the heart of the same person vary from day to day.
The same is true with regard to mitzvos. There are exactly 613 eternal commandments - we may neither add to nor detract from this number. But there is also the aspect of beautifying and glorifying the mitzvos, wherein a person goes from level to level in his scrupulousness and adornment of mitzvos.
Since Torah and mitzvos were given by G-d to the Jewish people, they include two distinct aspects, as it were: they are G-d's Torah and mitzvos; but they also constitute the service of the Jewish people, the receivers of Torah and mitzvos.
These two aspects find expression in the concepts of immutability and change. The inflexible and unalterable aspect of Torah and mitzvos emphasizes the Giver of Torah and the Commander of the mitzvos, Who is not subject to change.
Torah and mitzvos constitute the service of the Jewish people. As created beings, we are intrinsically subject to change, and as part of our service are expected to constantly rise from level to level. Therefore Torah, prayer and mitzvos each contain elements of change and advancement.
This is why Nitzavim and Vayeilech are truly one, notwithstanding the seemingly opposite meanings of their names, for divine service requires both features: Nitzavim-immutability as a result of the Giver of Torah and mitzvos, and Vayeilech-movement on the part of man, the receiver.
Nitzavim and Vayeilech are thus one Torah portion, for the foundation of the service of Vayeilech, movement and change, must necessarily be Nitzavim - a recognition that Torah and mitzvos were given by G-d, who is not subject to change.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIX, pp. 173-178.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIX, p. 298, and sources cited there.
- (Back to text) In his prayer book, section of Kerias HaTorah.
- (Back to text) See Or HaTorah, Nitzavim, p. 1201ff.
- (Back to text) See also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIV, p. 623.
- (Back to text) Yoma 28b.
- (Back to text) See beginning of the Introduction of the Rambam to his Yad HaChazakah.
- (Back to text) See ibid. See also Rambam beginning of Hilchos Mamrim; Kiriat Sefer of the Mabit, chapters 1 and 2 of the introduction.
- (Back to text) Likkutei Torah, Berachah, p. 95d.
- (Back to text) See Rambam, beginning of Hilchos Tefillah and ibid., 1:4.
- (Back to text) Taanis 2a.
- (Back to text) See Devarim 13:1. See also ibid., 4:2; Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah, beginning of chapter 9.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, p. 395ff.