Parshat Nitzavim

Two Minutes of Torah with Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky

“You stand this day, all of you, before the LORD your God—your tribal heads, your elders and your officials, all the men of Israel, your children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to water drawer— to enter into the covenant of the LORD your God, which the LORD your God is concluding with you this day, with its sanctions…”

—Deuteronomy 29:9-11

The Jewish people are assembled, standing and waiting, anxious, tired, hungry, and unsure of themselves in this setting. Every moment that passes brings them closer to an unknown future in the Promised Land.

Parshat Nitzavim focuses on Moses’ speech to the Israelites at the end of his life. He knows that one chapter of the Israelites’ story is ending, and another will begin. He includes everyone in this moment, not only the leadership. Everyone is present at this moment of transition, to be reminded of their place in a covenantal relationship with God.

During the next two weeks Jews worldwide will gather for High Holy Day services, some in familiar spaces they attend every week, some stepping into a synagogue for the first time in a year. They will stand together, listening, praying, and thinking about the next hour, the next week, and the next year. We will move from one year to the next, not knowing what the future will bring.

Nitzavim emphasizes that even in a point of transition, we stand with community. Community is what sustained the Israelites as they journeyed in the wilderness and it is what sustains us today. The emphasis on “all of you” reminds us that we are not alone in in this moment and in this space, not alone in our vulnerability, not alone in accepting the responsibility to live up to our highest ideals and aspirations in the year to come.