Parashat Nitzavim begins with Moshe announcing to Benei Yisrael that they were entering into a formal covenant with God, committing themselves to observe His laws. He opens this announcement with the words, “Atem nitzavim hayom kulekhem lifnei Hashem Elokeikhem” – “You are standing today, all of you, before the Lord your God.”
Rashi (to 29:12), citing the Midrash Tanchuma, associates the word “nitzavim” (“standing”) with the word “matzeiva” (“monument”). He explains, “As Yisrael were transitioning from one leader to another leader – from Moshe to Yehoshua – he therefore made them into a monument, in order to motivate them.” What does Rashi mean when he describes Moshe as turning Benei Yisrael into a monument?
Rav Avraham Tchareck, in his Divrei Avraham, explains that Rashi speaks here of the concern that Yehoshua would be unable to inspire and impact upon the people as effectively as Moshe did. Yehoshua was Moshe’s greatest disciple, but still fell far short of his esteemed mentor’s stature and capabilities. Moshe feared that as Yehoshua – and, presumably, future leaders – would not be as effective in guiding and inspiring the people, they would decline. He therefore sought to turn Benei Yisrael into a matzeiva – that is, to make them strong enough to maintain their commitment on their own, without relying on somebody providing them with inspiration. Moshe wanted Benei Yisrael to become spiritually self-sufficient, to be strong and resolute in their faith and devotion to the point where they would not need an inspiring figure continually sustaining their religious fervor.
The Midrash here teaches us that we cannot rely on external factors, such as inspiring personalities, to keep us religiously committed. Certainly, we are often fortunate to have a “Moshe” figure come along and uplift us. Ultimately, however, we must make ourselves a sturdy, strong, stable “matzeiva” that can sustain itself. The inspiration to learn and observe the Torah must come from deep within ourselves, from our inner convictions, as only then will our commitment endure the various transitions and upheavals that we experience over the course of our lives, and remain strong and firm even when we have no “Moshe” or any other external factor motivating us to achieve.