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Friday, September 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Nitzavim / Vayeilech

A hearty Weekly Shtikle Mazal Tov to my sister-in-law, Sara Yeres, on her Aliyah AND engagement to Avi Lifshitz, originally from Scarsdale, NY - both of which happened this week (in that order). Mazal Tov to the ganse mishpacha!

    In pasuk 31:8, Moshe gives Yehoshua words of encouragement upon his taking over of Moshe's position. The pasuk ends off, "lo sira velo seichas". In pasuk 1:21, Moshe commands B'nei Yisroel, with regards to their seemingly imminent conquer of Eretz Yisroel, "al tira ve'al teichas". The commands are almost exactly identical. The only difference is the exchange of the word "al" for the word "lo."

    Both the word "lo" and "al" may both be translated as "don't." However, there is a difference between the two. The word "al' has only one meaning. Alternatively, the word "lo" is slightly more flexible. It can take on the form of a command, as in "lo tirtzach," thou shall not murder. However, it can also take on the form of a promise or assurance. Perhaps the clearest example of this is when HaShem commands Moshe to prevent B'nei Yisroel from ascending the mountain to fight following the incident with the spies. Moshe is told to declare (1:42) "Lo sa'alu". The simple reading is clearly, "do not go up!" However, Rashi quotes from a Midrash, "Lo aliya tehe lachem, ela yeridah", it will not be an ascent for you, rather a descent i.e. you will not succeed. Here we see clearly that the word "lo" can mean both a command and a promise, even at the same time.

    Therefore, in our parsha, Yehoshua is not being commanded not to fear, but rather being promised that he will have nothing to fear. In Devarim, he is being told not to fear. Indeed, the expression in Devarim is said in the context of other commands. In our parsha, however, it is stated in the context of other promises.

Have a good Shabbos and kesivah vachasimah tovah. 

Eliezer Bulka


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