Nitzavim, Nitsavim, Nitzabim, Netzavim, or Nesabim (נִצָּבִים — Hebrew for “ones standing,” the second word, and the first distinctive word, in the parshah) is the 51st weekly Torah portion (parshah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the eighth in the book of Deuteronomy. It constitutes Deuteronomy 29:9–30:20. Jews in the Diaspora generally read it in September or early October. Parshah Nitzavim always falls on the Sabbath immediately before Rosh Hashanah.

The lunisolar Hebrew calendar contains up to 55 weeks, the exact number varying between 50 in common years and 54 or 55 in leap years. In some leap years (for example, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019), parshah Nitzavim is read separately. In common years (for example, 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2017), parshah Nitzavim is combined with the next parshah, Vayelech, to help achieve the number of weekly readings needed. The two Torah portions are combined except when two Sabbaths fall between Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot and neither Sabbath coincides with a Holy Day. (W. Gunther Plaut. The Torah: A Modern Commentary, 1553. New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981. ISBN 0-8074-0055-6.)

In the standard Reform prayerbook for the High Holy Days (machzor), parts of the parshah, Deuteronomy 29:9–14 and 30:11–20, are the Torah readings for the morning Yom Kippur service, in lieu of the traditional reading of Leviticus 16. (Gates of Repentance: The New Union Prayerbook for the Days of Awe. Edited by Chaim Stern, 342–45. New York: Central Conference of American Rabbis, Revised ed. 1996. ISBN 0-88123-069-3.)

In the parshah, Moses told the Israelites that all the people stood before God to enter into the covenant, violation of which would bring on every curse, but if they returned to God and heeded God’s commandments, then God would take them back in love and bring them together again from the ends of the world. For this Instruction is not beyond reach, and Moses put before the Israelites life and death, blessing and curse, and exhorted them to choose life by loving God and heeding the commandments.

“For this commandment . . . is not in heaven, that you should say: ‘Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us . . . ?’” (Deuteronomy 30:11–12.)



The covenant

Moses told the Israelites that all the people stood that day before God to enter into the covenant whereby God might establish Israel as God’s people and be their God, as God promised them and as God swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 29:9–12.) Moses made the covenant both with those who were standing there that day and with those who were not there that day. (Deuteronomy 29:13–14.) Moses reminded the Israelites that they had dwelt in the land of Egypt and had passed through various other nations and had seen the detestable idols of wood, stone, silver, and gold that those other nations kept. (Deuteronomy 29:15–16.) Moses speculated that perchance there were among the Israelites some whose hearts were even then turning away from God to go worship the gods of those nations, who might think themselves immune, thinking that they would be safe though they followed their own willful hearts to the ruin of all. (Deuteronomy 29:17–18.) But God would never forgive them; rather God’s anger would rage against them until every curse recorded in the Torah would come down upon them and God had blotted out their names from under heaven. (Deuteronomy 29:19–20.) And later generations and other nations would ask why God had done that to those people, and they would be told that it was because they forsook the covenant that God made with them and turned to the service of other gods. (Deuteronomy 29:21–25.) So God grew incensed at that land and brought upon it all the curses recorded in the Torah, uprooted them from their soil in anger, and cast them into another land, as would still be the case. (Deuteronomy 29:26–27.) Concealed acts concerned God; but with overt acts, it was for the Israelites ever to apply all the provisions of the Torah. (Deuteronomy 29:28.)

“For this commandment . . . is not . . . beyond the sea, that you should say: ‘Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it to us . . . ?’” (Deuteronomy 30:11–13.)


After all these curses had befallen them, if they took them to heart in their exile, and they returned to God, and they heeded God’s commandments with all their hearts and souls, then God would restore their fortunes, take them back in love, and bring them together again from the ends of the world to the land that their fathers possessed, and God would make them more prosperous and numerous than their fathers. (Deuteronomy 30:1–5.) Then God would open their hearts to love God with all their hearts and souls, in order that they might live. (Deuteronomy 30:6.) God would then inflict all those curses on the enemies who persecuted the Israelites, and would bless the Israelites with abounding prosperity, fertility, and productivity. (Deuteronomy 30:7–9.) For God would again delight in their wellbeing, as God had in that of their fathers, since they would be heeding God and keeping the commandments once they had returned to God with all their hearts and souls. (Deuteronomy 30:9–10.)

The law’s accessibility

Moses said that surely, this Instruction which he enjoined upon them was not too baffling, beyond reach, in the heavens, or beyond the sea; rather it was very close to them, in their mouths and hearts. (Deuteronomy 30:11–14.) Moses said that he set before them the choice between life and prosperity on the one hand and death and adversity on the other. (Deuteronomy 30:15.) Moses commanded them to love God, to walk in God’s ways, and to keep God’s commandments, that they might thrive and increase, and that God might bless them in the land. (Deuteronomy 30:16.) But if their hearts turned away and they gave no heed, and were lured into the worship of other gods, Moses warned that they would certainly perish and not long endure in the land. (Deuteronomy 30:17–18.) Moses called heaven and earth to witness that he had put before the Israelites life and death, blessing and curse. (Deuteronomy 30:19.) He exhorted them to choose life by loving God, heeding the commandments, and holding fast to God, so that they might have life and long endure on the land that God swore to their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 30:19–20.)

Key words

Words used frequently in the parshah include:

In inner-biblical interpretation

Deuteronomy chapter 29

In Deuteronomy 29:9–10, Moses cast the net broadly to include in the covenant all in the Israelite camp, including “your stranger” and those in the servant classes of “the hewer of your wood to the drawer of your water.” In Joshua 9:3–15, the Gibeonites tricked Joshua into believing that they were not among the local inhabitants whom God had instructed the Israelites to eliminate. In recompense, in Joshua 9:21, the Israelite chieftains decreed that they should become “hewers of wood and drawers of water to all the congregation,” and in Joshua 9:27, “Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the Lord.” Even so, 2 Samuel 21:2 reports that later in the time of David, “the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites.”

Deuteronomy chapter 30

Moses calls heaven and earth to serve as witnesses against Israel in Deuteronomy 4:26, 30:19, 31:28, and 32:1. Similarly, Psalm 50:4–5 reports that God “summoned the heavens above, and the earth, for the trial of His people,” saying “Bring in My devotees, who made a covenant with Me over sacrifice!” Psalm 50:6 continues: “Then the heavens proclaimed His righteousness, for He is a God who judges.”

King David (statue in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore)

In classical rabbinic interpretation

Deuteronomy chapter 29

The Gemara deduced from the separate mention of “all the men of Israel,” “your stranger,” and “the hewer of your wood to the drawer of your water” in Deuteronomy 29:9–10 that Moses meant to decree that the hewers of wood and the drawers of water (whom the Gemara deduced from Joshua 9:27 were Gibeonites) were to be considered neither Israelites nor converts in that generation. The Gemara further deduced that in Joshua 9:27, Joshua extended that decree of separation for the period during which the Sanctuary existed, and in 2 Samuel 21:2, David extended the decree for all generations. (Babylonian Talmud Yevamot 79a.)

The Revelation at Mount Sinai (illustration from a Bible card published 1907 by the Providence Lithograph Company)

The Gemara interpreted the words “not with you alone do I make this covenant” in Deuteronomy 29:13 to teach that Moses adjured the Israelites to agree with the covenant not just as they understood it themselves, but also as Moses understood it, and as God understands it. (Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 25a, Shevuot 29a, 39a.)

In response to a question from Rav Aha son of Rava, Rav Ashi taught that although later converts to Judaism may not have been literally present at Mount Sinai, Deuteronomy 29:13–14 indicated that their angellic advocates were present when it said: “Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath, but with him that stands here with us this day before the Lord our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day.” (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 146a.)

The Tosefta deduced from Deuteronomy 29:13–14 that the conditions that the Rabbis deduced from the Torah for administering oaths will also apply to future generations and converts. (Tosefta Sotah 7:5.)

In Deuteronomy 29:18, the heart cavils. A midrash catalogued the wide range of additional capabilities of the heart reported in the Hebrew Bible. The heart speaks (Ecclesiastes 1:16), sees (Ecclesiastes 1:16), hears (1 Kings 3:9), walks (2 Kings 5:26), falls (1 Samuel 17:32), stands (Ezekiel 22:14), rejoices (Psalm 16:9), cries (Lamentations 2:18), is comforted (Isaiah 40:2), is troubled (Deuteronomy 15:10), becomes hardened (Exodus 9:12.), grows faint (Deuteronomy 20:3), grieves (Genesis 6:6), fears (Deuteronomy 28:67), can be broken (Psalm 51:19), becomes proud (Deuteronomy 8:14), rebels (Jeremiah 5:23), invents (1 Kings 12:33), overflows (Psalm 45:2), devises (Proverbs 19:21), desires (Psalm 21:3), goes astray (Proverbs 7:25), lusts (Numbers 15:39), is refreshed (Genesis 18:5), can be stolen (Genesis 31:20), is humbled (Leviticus 26:41), is enticed (Genesis 34:3), errs (Isaiah 21:4), trembles (1 Samuel 4:13), is awakened (Song of Songs 5:2), loves (Deuteronomy 6:5), hates (Leviticus 19:17), envies (Proverbs 23:17), is searched (Jeremiah 17:10), is rent (Joel 2:13), meditates (Psalm 49:4), is like a fire (Jeremiah 20:9), is like a stone (Ezekiel 36:26), turns in repentance (2 Kings 23:25), becomes hot (Deuteronomy 19:6), dies (1 Samuel 25:37), melts (Joshua 7:5), takes in words (Deuteronomy 6:6), is susceptible to fear (Jeremiah 32:40), gives thanks (Psalm 111:1), covets (Proverbs 6:25), becomes hard (Proverbs 28:14), makes merry (Judges 16:25), acts deceitfully (Proverbs 12:20), speaks from out of itself (1 Samuel 1:13), loves bribes (Jeremiah 22:17), writes words (Proverbs 3:3), plans (Proverbs 6:18), receives commandments (Proverbs 10:8), acts with pride (Obadiah 1:3), makes arrangements (Proverbs 16:1), and aggrandizes itself (2 Chronicles 25:19). (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1:36.)

Rab Judah taught in Rab’s name that the words, “that he bless himself in his heart, saying: ‘I shall have peace, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart — that the watered be swept away with the dry’; the Lord will not be willing to pardon him,” in Deuteronomy 29:18–19 apply to one who marries his daughter to an old man, or takes a mature wife for his infant son, or returns a lost article to an idolater. (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 76b.)

Rabbi Haninah (or some say Rabbi Joshua ben Levi) deduced from the words “the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt” in Deuteronomy 29:19 that all the land of Israel was burned, and thus even wicked people buried in the land of Israel before that time will merit to be resurrected, because the burning of the land will have executed on them the punishment that justice demanded. A Baraita taught in the name of Rabbi Judah that the land of Israel burned for seven years. (Jerusalem Talmud Kilayim 81a.)

Rabbi Akiba (illustration from the 1568 Mantua Haggadah)

Explaining an assertion by Rabbi Jose, Rabbi Johanan deduced from the parallel use of word “covenant” in Deuteronomy 29:24 and Daniel 9:27 that the land sown with “brimstone and salt” foretold in Deuteronomy 29:21–24 was the same seven years of barren soil inflicted by Israel’s enemy in Daniel 9:27. (Babylonian Talmud Yoma 54a.)

The Ark Crosses the Jordan River (illustration from a Bible card published circa 1896–1913 by the Providence Lithograph Company)

Rabbi Akiba interpreted the words “and [He] cast them into another land, as it is this day” in Deuteronomy 29:27 to teach that the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel were destined not to return. But Rabbi Eliezer interpreted the allusion to “day” in Deuteronomy 29:27 differently, teaching that just as the day darkens and then becomes light again, so even though it went dark for the Ten Tribes, it will become light for them again. (Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:3; Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 110b.)

Two Tannaim disputed why dots appear in the Masoretic Text over the words “to us and to our children forever” (לָנוּ וּלְבָנֵינוּ, עַד) in Deuteronomy 29:28. Rabbi Judah said that dots appear to teach that God would not punish the Israelite community as a whole for transgressions committed in secret until the Israelites had crossed the Jordan River. Rabbi Nehemiah questioned, however, whether God ever punished the Israelite community for transgressions committed in secret, noting that Deuteronomy 29:28 said, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God . . . forever.” Rabbi Nehemiah taught that God did not punish the Israelite community for secret transgressions at any time, and God did not punish the Israelite community as a whole for open transgressions until they had crossed the Jordan. (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 43b.)

And a midrash offered alternative explanations of why there are points over the words “to us and to our children” (לָנוּ וּלְבָנֵינוּ, lanu ulebaneinu) and over the first letter (עַ, ayin) of the word “to” (עַד, ad) in Deuteronomy 29:28. One explanation: God told the Israelites that they had performed the precepts that had been revealed, and God, on God’s part, would make known to them the things that were secret. Another explanation: Ezra (whom some consider the author of these diacritical points, although others regard them as having come from Sinai) reasoned that if Elijah came and asked Ezra why he had written these words, Ezra could answer that he had already placed points over them. And if Elijah told Ezra that he had done well in writing them, then Ezra would erase the points over them. (If Elijah said that the words should not have been written, Ezra could answer that he had dotted them so that people could understand that they were to be disregarded. If Elijah approved of the words, then Ezra could erase the dots.) (Numbers Rabbah 3:13.)

Deuteronomy chapter 30

A midrash interpreted Deuteronomy 30:1–6 to teach that if the Israelites repented while they were in exile, then God would gather them back together, as Deuteronomy 30:1–6 says, “And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon you, the blessing and the curse . . . and [you] shall return . . . and hearken to His voice . . . the Lord your God will bring you into the land . . . and the Lord your God will circumcise your heart.” (Numbers Rabbah 7:10.)

Rabbi Simon ben Yohai deduced from the words “the Lord your God will return [with] your captivity” in Deuteronomy 30:3 that the Shechinah went with the Israelites to every place to which they were exiled, and will be with them when they are redeemed in the future. By way of explanation, the Baraita noted that Deuteronomy 30:3 did not say “and [God] shall bring back” but “and [God] shall return,” teaching that God will return with the Israelites from their places of exile. Rabbi Simon concluded that Deuteronomy 30:3 thus showed how beloved the Children of Israel are in God’s sight. (Babylonian Talmud Megillah 29a.)

Rabbi Jose bar Haninah deduced from Deuteronomy 30:5 that when the Jews arrived back in the land of Israel in the time of Ezra, they once again became obligated to obey commandments like tithes (maasros). Rabbi Jose bar Haninah reasoned that the words, “And the Lord your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it,” in Deuteronomy 30:5 showed that the Jews’ possession of the land in the time of Ezra was comparable to their possession of it in the time of Joshua. And thus just as Jews in the time of Joshua were obliged to tithe, so Jews in the time of Ezra were obliged to tithe. And the Gemara interpreted the words, “He will do you good, and make you greater than you fathers,” in Deuteronomy 30:5 to teach that the Jews of the time of Ezra were still able to enter the land of Israel as their ancestors had, even though the Jews of the time of Ezra bore the yoke of foreign government on their shoulders and their ancestors had not. (Jerusalem Talmud Sheviit 42b–43a.)

A midrash taught that fools enter the synagogue, and seeing people occupying themselves with the law, ask how a person learns the law. They answer that first a person reads from children’s materials, then from the Torah, then from the prophets (Nevi'im), and then from the writings (Ketuvim). Then the person learns the Talmud, then the law (halakha), and then the midrash (haggadot). Hearing this, fools ask themselves when they can learn all that, and turn to leave. Rabbi Jannai compared this to a loaf suspended in the air. The fool exclaims that no one can bring it down. But the wise person says that someone put it there and takes a ladder or stick and brings it down. So fools complain that they are unable to read all the law. But wise people learn a chapter every day until they read all the law. God said in Deuteronomy 30:11, “it is not too hard for you,” but if you find it too hard, it is your own fault, because you do not study it. (Deuteronomy Rabbah 8:3.)

a carob tree

A Baraita taught that one day, Rabbi Eliezer employed every imaginable argument for the proposition that a particular type of oven was not susceptible to ritual impurity, but the Sages did not accept his arguments. Then Rabbi Eliezer told the Sages, “If the law agrees with me, then let this carob tree prove it,” and the carob tree moved 100 cubits (and others say 400 cubits) out of its place. But the Sages said that no proof can be brought from a carob tree. Then Rabbi Eliezer told the Sages, “If the halachah agrees with me, let this stream of water prove it,” and the stream of water flowed backwards. But the Sages said that no proof can be brought from a stream of water. Then Rabbi Eliezer told the Sages, “If the halachah agrees with me, let the walls of this house of study prove it,” and the walls leaned over as if to fall. But Rabbi Joshua rebuked the walls, telling them not to interfere with scholars engaged in a halachic dispute. In honor of Rabbi Joshua, the walls did not fall, but in honor of Rabbi Eliezer, the walls did not stand upright, either. Then Rabbi Eliezer told the Sages, “If the halachah agrees with me, let Heaven prove it,” and a Heavenly Voice cried out: “Why do you dispute with Rabbi Eliezer, for in all matters the halachah agrees with him!” But Rabbi Joshua rose and exclaimed in the words of Deuteronomy 30:12: “It is not in heaven.” Rabbi Jeremiah explained that God had given the Torah at Mount Sinai; Jews pay no attention to Heavenly Voices, for God wrote in Exodus 23:2: “After the majority must one incline.” Later, Rabbi Nathan met Elijah and asked him what God did when Rabbi Joshua rose in opposition to the Heavenly Voice. Elijah replied that God laughed with joy, saying, “My children have defeated Me, My children have defeated Me!” (Babylonian Talmud Bava Metzia 59b.)

Rav Hisda taught that one should use mnemonic devices to learn the Torah. And the Gemara taught that this agrees with Abdimi bar Hama bar Dosa, who interpreted Deuteronomy 30:12 to mean that if it were “in heaven,” one would have to go up after it, and if it were “beyond the sea,” one would have to go overseas after it. Rather, people can learn the Torah using the tools that they find where they are. Raba (or some say Rabbi Johanan) interpreted “it is not in heaven” to mean that the Torah is not to be found among those who believe that their insight towers as high as the heavens. And Raba interpreted “neither is it beyond the sea” to mean that it is not to be found among those whose self-esteem expands as the sea. Rabbi Johanan (or some say Raba) interpreted “it is not in heaven” to mean that the Torah is not to be found among the arrogant. And Rabbi Johanan interpreted “neither is it beyond the sea” to mean that it is not to be found among traveling merchants and business people. (Babylonian Talmud Eruvin 54b–55a.)

A midrash interpreted the words “For this commandment . . . is not in heaven” in Deuteronomy 30:11–12 to teach that Jews should not look for another Moses to come and bring another Torah from heaven, for no part of the Torah remained in heaven. Rabbi Hanina interpreted the words “For this commandment . . . is not in heaven” in Deuteronomy 30:11–12 to teach that God gave the Torah with all its characteristic teachings of meekness, righteousness, and uprightness, and also its reward. Samuel interpreted the words “For this commandment . . . is not in heaven” in Deuteronomy 30:11–12 to teach that the Torah is not to be found among astrologers who gaze at the heavens. When people countered that Samuel himself was an astrologer and also a great Torah scholar, he replied that he engaged in astrology only when he was free from studying the Torah — when he was in the bath. (Deuteronomy Rabbah 8:6.)

Rabbi Samuel ben Nahman told a parable to explain the words of Deuteronomy 30:14, “But the word is very near to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it.” Rabbi Samuel taught that it is as if there were a king's daughter who was not acquainted with any man, and the king had a friend who could visit him at any time, and the princess waited on the friend. The king told the friend that this indicated how much the king loved him, for no one was acquainted with his daughter, yet she waited upon the friend. Similarly, God told Israel that it indicated how beloved Israel was to God, for no being in God’s palace was acquainted with the Torah, yet God entrusted it to Israel. As Job 28:21 says, “Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living,” but as for the Children of Israel (as Deuteronomy 30:11–14 says), “It is not too hard for you . . . but the word is very near to you.” (Deuteronomy Rabbah 8:7.)

Rabbi Ammi expounded on the words, “For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them [words of the wise] within you; let them be established altogether upon your lips,” in Proverbs 22:18. He explained that the words of the Torah are “pleasant” when one keeps them within oneself, and one does that when the words are “established altogether upon your lips.” Rabbi Isaac said that this may be derived from the words of Deuteronomy 30:14: “But the word is very near to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it,” for “it is very near to you” when it is “in your mouth and in your heart” to do it. Thus, reading the Torah aloud helps one to keep its precepts in one’s heart, and thus to carry them out. (Babylonian Talmud Eruvin 54a.)

The Gemara taught that the words “if your heart turns away . . . you will not hear” in Deuteronomy 30:17 can describe Torah study. If one listens to the old, and reviews what one has already learned, then one will perceive new understanding. But if one turns away and does not review what one has learned, then one may not perceive the opportunity for new learning. (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 40a.)

Rabbi Haggai taught that not only had God in Deuteronomy 11:26 set two paths before the Israelites, “a blessing and a curse,” but God did not administer justice to them according to the strict letter of the law, but allowed them mercy so that they might (in the words of Deuteronomy 30:19) “choose life.” (Deuteronomy Rabbah 4:3.)

detail of fish (wall painting from the Egyptian Tomb of Menna circa 1422–1411 B.C.E.)

Rabbi Ishmael deduced from the words “choose life” in Deuteronomy 30:19 that one can learn a trade to earn a livelihood, notwithstanding the admonition of Joshua 1:8 that “you shall contemplate [the Torah] day and night.” (Jerusalem Talmud Peah 5b.)

Rab Judah interpreted the words “for that is your life and the length of your days” in Deuteronomy 30:20 to teach that refusing to read when one is given a Torah scroll to read is one of three things that shorten a person’s days and years (along with refusing to say grace when one is given a cup of benediction and assuming airs of authority). (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 55a.)

The Rabbis taught that once the Roman government forbade Jews to study the Torah. Pappus ben Judah found Rabbi Akiba publicly gathering people to study Torah and asked Akiba whether he did not fear the government. Akiba replied with a parable: A fox was once walking alongside of a river, and he saw fish swimming from one place to another. The fox asked the fish from what they fled. The fish replied that they fled from the nets cast by men. The fox invited the fish to come up onto the dry land, so that they could live together as the fox’s ancestors had lived with the fish’s ancestors. The fish replied that for an animal described as the cleverest of animals, the fox was rather foolish. For if the fish were afraid in the element in which they live, how much more would they fear in the element in which they would die. Akiba said that it was the same with Jews. If such was the Jews’ condition when they sat and studied Torah, of which Deuteronomy 30:20 says, “that is your life and the length of your days,” how much worse off would Jews be if they neglected the Torah! (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 61b.)

A Baraita was taught in the Academy of Eliyahu: A certain scholar diligently studied Bible and Mishnah, and greatly served scholars, but nonetheless died young. His wife carried his tefillin to the synagogues and schoolhouses and asked if Deuteronomy 30:20 says, “for that is your life, and the length of your days,” why her husband nonetheless died young. No one could answer her. On one occasion, Eliyahu asked her how he was to her during her days of white garments — the seven days after her menstrual period — and she reported that they ate, drank, and slept together without clothing. Eliyahu explained that God must have slain him because he did not sufficiently respect the separation that Leviticus 18:19 requires. (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 13a–b.)


According to Maimonides and Sefer ha-Chinuch, there are no commandments in the parshah. (Maimonides. Mishneh Torah. Cairo, Egypt, 1170–1180. Reprinted in Maimonides. The Commandments: Sefer Ha-Mitzvoth of Maimonides. Translated by Charles B. Chavel. London: Soncino Press, 1967. ISBN 0-900689-71-4. Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, 5:430–33. Jerusalem: Feldheim Pub., 1988. ISBN 0-87306-497-6.) Nachmanides, however, reading Deuteronomy 30:11, suggests that Deuteronomy 30:2 contains a commandment of repentance (teshuvah). (Nachmanides. Commentary on the Torah. 13th century. Reprinted in Ramban (Nachmanides): Commentary on the Torah. Translated by Charles B. Chavel, 340, 342–43. New York: Shilo Publishing, 1976.)


The haftarah for the parshah is Isaiah 61:10–63:9. The haftarah is the seventh and concluding installment in the cycle of seven haftarot of consolation after Tisha B'Av, leading up to Rosh Hashanah.


The prophet rejoiced in God, who had clothed him with salvation, covered him with victory, as a bridegroom dons a priestly diadem, as a bride adorns herself with jewels. (Isaiah 61:10.) For as the earth brings forth vegetation, so God will cause victory and glory to sprout before the nations. (Isaiah 61:11.)

treading grapes (illustration from the 14th Century book Tacuinum Sanitatis)

For Zion’s sake, the prophet would not hold his peace, until Jerusalem’s triumph would burn brightly for the nations to see, and Zion would be called by a new name given by God. (Isaiah 62:1–2.) Zion would be a crown of beauty in God’s hand, and no more would she be called Forsaken or Desolate, but she would be called Delight and Espoused, for God would rejoice over her as a bridegroom over his bride. (Isaiah 62:3–5.)

The prophet set lookouts on Jerusalem’s walls, until God would make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. (Isaiah 62:6–7.) God has sworn no more to give Israel’s corn to her enemies, nor her wine to strangers, but those who harvested shall eat, and those who gathered shall drink, in the courts of God’s sanctuary. (Isaiah 62:8–9.)

The prophet said clear the way, for God proclaimed to Zion that her salvation was coming. (Isaiah 62:10–11.) And they shall call the Israelites the holy people, and Jerusalem shall be called Sought out, not Forsaken. (Isaiah 62:12.)

The prophet asked Who came in crimson garments from Edom, mighty to save, and why God’s apparel was red like one who trod in the wine vat. (Isaiah 63:1–2.) God said that God had trodden the winepress in anger alone, and trampled in fury, for the day of vengeance was in God’s heart, and God’s year of redemption had come. (Isaiah 63:3–4.) God looked and found none to help to uphold God’s will, so God trod down the peoples in anger, and poured out their blood. (Isaiah 63:5–6.)

The prophet spoke of God’s mercies and praises, of God’s great goodness toward Israel, which God bestowed with compassion. (Isaiah 63:7.) For God said, “Surely, they are My people,” and so God was their Savior. (Isaiah 63:8.) In all their affliction God was afflicted, and God’s angel saved them; in love and pity God redeemed them, and God bore them and carried them all the days of old. (Isaiah 63:9.)

Connection to the Special Sabbath

Concluding the series of consolation after Tisha B’Av, and leading up to the Days of Awe, the haftarah features God’s salvation (Isaiah 61:10; 62:1, 11; 63:5), redemption (Isaiah 62:12; 63:4, 9), mercies (Isaiah 63:7 (2 times)), and compassion (Isaiah 63:7).

In the liturgy

The standard Conservative prayerbook quotes Deuteronomy 29:28 and 30:11–14 as readings to accompany the second blessing before the Shema. (Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, 29. New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 2007. ISBN 0-916219-13-5.)

Further reading

The parshah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:


  • Joshua 9:21, 27 (hewers of wood and drawers of water).
  • Psalms 11:6 (God punishing the wicked); 14:1 (fool who “in his heart” imagines escaping God); 27:1 (God as life-giver); 52:7 (God rooting out evil); 66:9 (God as life-giver); 74:1 (God’s anger); 79:5 (God’s jealousy as fire); 106:45 (God will return); 126:1–4 (God restores); 147:2 (God gathers exiles).

Classical rabbinic

  • Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:3. Land of Israel, circa 200 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 605. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.
  • Tosefta: Sotah 7:3–5; Avodah Zarah 6:13. Land of Israel, circa 300 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 1:861–62; 2:1285. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 2002. ISBN 1-56563-642-2.
  • Sifre to Deuteronomy 304:1–305:3. Land of Israel, circa 250–350 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., Sifre to Deuteronomy: An Analytical Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 2:289–294. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987. ISBN 1-55540-145-7.

Early nonrabbinic



  • Deuteronomy Rabbah 8:1–7. Land of Israel, 9th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Deuteronomy. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
  • Rashi. Commentary. Deuteronomy 29–30. Troyes, France, late 11th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Rashi. The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Translated and annotated by Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg, 5:303–18. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1997. ISBN 0-89906-030-7.


  • Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803).
  • Abraham Isaac Kook. The Lights of Penitence, 17:2. 1925. Reprinted in Abraham Isaac Kook: the Lights of Penitence, the Moral Principles, Lights of Holiness, Essays, Letters, and Poems. Translated by Ben Zion Bokser, 127. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press 1978. ISBN 0-8091-2159-X.
  • Martin Buber. On the Bible: Eighteen studies, 80–92. New York: Schocken Books, 1968.
  • F. Charles Fensham. “Salt as Curse in the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East.” Biblical Archaeologist. 25 (2) (May 1962): 48–50.
  • Lawrence H. Schiffman. “The New Halakhic Letter (4QMMT) and the Origins of the Dead Sea Sect.” Biblical Archaeologist. 53 (2) (June 1990): 64–73.
  • Bernhard W. Anderson. “‘Subdue the Earth’: What Does It Mean? Humans received a God-given freedom to choose between a lifestyle that fosters life on this planet or that leads to death for the earth and its inhabitants. In the words of Deuteronomy 30:19: ‘Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.’” Bible Review. 8 (5) (Oct. 1992).
  • Jeffrey H. Tigay. The JPS Torah Commentary: Deuteronomy: The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation, 277–88. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996. ISBN 0-8276-0330-4.
  • Adin Steinsaltz. Simple Words: Thinking About What Really Matters in Life, 84. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. ISBN 068484642X.
  • Alan Lew. This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation, 65, 82–85, 152–54, 164. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 2003. ISBN 0-316-73908-1.
  • Joseph Telushkin. The Ten Commandments of Character: Essential Advice for Living an Honorable, Ethical, Honest Life, 13. New York: Bell Tower, 2003. ISBN 1-4000-4509-6.
  • Nathaniel Philbrick. Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, 292. New York: Viking Penguin, 2006. ISBN 0-670-03760-5.
  • Suzanne A. Brody. “The Covenant.” In Dancing in the White Spaces: The Yearly Torah Cycle and More Poems, 109. Shelbyville, Kentucky: Wasteland Press, 2007. ISBN 1-60047-112-9.

External links



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