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Parashat Netzavim

In this week’s parsha we learn about an exciting moment in Bnei Yisrael’s history. This climactic moment is the covenant Bnei Yisrael enter into before crossing the threshold of Eretz Yisrael. This event took place on the shores of the Jordan River, in the final moments of Moshe’s last speech to the people. Bnei Yisrael, after the harsh warnings they had just received against straying from the path of the Torah, are told of all the wonderful rewards they will receive if they follow the Torah. Bnei Yisrael are reminded of the quality of life the Torah life provides. The covenant and all its parts deserve serious study, since we are held accountable to the conditions of this covenant. I’d like to focus on a comment of Rashi’s in this week’s parsha. Hashem instructs Bnei Yisrael regarding the conditions of the covenant, the main point centering around our obligation to fulfill the mitzvoth. Thereby, Hashem promises to protect us in our land. In essence, the covenant was the solidification of Bnei Yisrael’s acceptance of the mitzvoth. Through the covenant we realized our obligation to perform the mitzvoth. Hashem warns us that if we walk in our own ways, and consider ourselves exempt from the conditions of the covenant, then Hashem will bring upon us the harshest of punishments.

Regarding the verses that describe the pains one will endure if he walks according to his own ways, Rashi comments that for a person such as this, even his accidental sins are "counted" against him. Normally, of course, accidental sins are just that, accidental, and thus not "counted" against us. Why is it that when one rejects this covenant, his accidental sins are counted against him?

What is an accident? It is when one commits an act that was not the act that he intended to commit. It is when one intends to perform action X and instead Y is occurs. When it comes to one who has accepted upon himself the obligation to perform the mitzvoth, he is always considered to be one who intends to perform good deeds. When he accidentally sins, it is exactly that, an accident. Since he had intended to perform a mitzvah, and the opposite occurred, it is not counted against him. The same cannot be said of one who excludes himself from the acceptance of mitzvoth. By excluding himself from the covenant, he intends to follow his own path, and thus when he sins, even without intention, it is not as if it was an accident. In any case, his overall plan was to sin. For this reason, the accidental sin is counted against him.

Many people are very good Jews. They perform many mitzvoth, go to shul, daven and even learn Torah. Yet, they aren't consciously set on a path to grow. When one accepts upon himself to follow a path of action that directs him towards growth, his every action is pointed towards that goal. This acceptance is really the essence of repentance. We already have begun reciting selichot. The time for repentance is upon us. Let us prepare ourselves by accepting upon ourselves to observe every aspect of the Torah.