In this week’s Parsha, we read the final speech of Moshe to Bnai Yisrael. On this day, Hashem made this covenant that the Jewish People must keep the Mitzvot and remain devoted to Hashem (Devarim 32:1). No one should think that because Hashem already established the covenant he is safe and does not have to keep the Torah. Hashem will not forgive such a person and will erase his name from the Sefer Hachaim, The Book of Life (32:26). On the other hand, if one keeps Hashem’s Mitzvot, then he will have good fortune and a place in heaven. Someone who strays from Judaism always has a chance to repent, and Hashem will forgive him if he does.
We read in Nitzavim,.כי המצוה הזאת... ולא רחקה היא (ל:יא) Many commentators ask if this Pasuk is talking about Teshuva or about the entire Torah. In Nechama Leibowitz’s book, Studies in Devarim, she quotes several different views. One of them is the view of the Rambam, who says that this Pasuk refers to Teshuva. Even though the Jewish People are spread out, they are still able to do Teshuva and return to Hashem, and it is within everyone’s ability to do Teshuva anytime they want. Teshuva is something that is done by people because they want to do it and not because they have to. Another response is that of Albo, the great medieval Jewish philosopher, who also supports the idea that this Pasuk refers to the Mitzva of Teshuva. We see this from the verse “In your mouth and in your heart to do it,” which clearly talks about Teshuva. Teshuva involves confessing with your mouth and feeling guilty in your heart.
There are some opinions that believe this Pasuk is referring to the entire Torah. The Chachamim in Masechet Eruvin (55a) say that learning Torah is very important, and every person should try to make time for Torah. When the Torah says, “It is not in Heaven… nor beyond the sea,” we learn that even if it was we would be obligated to go up to heaven or across the sea to learn Torah. Mizrachi, a commentary on Rashi, asks a question on this Gemara. If the Torah was in heaven, how would anybody be able to bring it down? The Pasuk cannot, then, mean that we would have to go up to the Torah if the Torah was in heaven. בער יצחק offers an explanation: If the Torah was off-limits, then Bnai Yisrael could say, “Who will go up to get it?” but since the Torah is around, we cannot use that excuse. Alternately, even if the Torah was in Heaven, we would strive to get it; since the Torah is around, we must do all we can to learn and follow the Torah. This is Moshe’s message to Bnai Yisrael.