Weekly Torah Commentary — Nitzavim September 14, 2012

“And you are all standing today before God…” Dev./Deut. 29:9

These words open the Torah portion, Nitzavim, that is always read on the Shabbat just before the holiday of Rosh Hashana. It is without doubt a very comforting opening passage after the litany of curses which were read last Shabbat! Despite any punishments or disciplines that the Jewish people might incur because of rebellion against Hashem’s Torah, Moshe assures them in this verse, that Hashem will never, ever abrogate the covenant that He made with them because His covenant depends on His faithfulness, more than ours. In fact, the verse continues by saying “the covenant of God, your God, and His Promise that God, your God, seals with you today to be a God to you.”

Some commentators think that these were among Moshe’s last words, spoken on the day he died. Others opine that perhaps it was Rosh Hashana, the day that the entire world is judged each year. The first opinion is in line with later verses for Moshe does indeed pass away very soon after this discourse. The second opinion relates the verse to the upcoming holiday.

But perhaps there is still another consideration.

The word “today” is interpreted in other places in the Torah as suggesting that every day of our lives should be treated with great respect and mindfulness, for all we really have in this journey through time is TODAY. Yesterday is gone and will never return. Tomorrow has not arrived. TODAY – this day – is what we have in which to serve Hashem, to make godly choices, to give kindness to those around us. “Today you all stand before God…” Isn’t that how we actually live each day though we too often lose sight of that truth?

Modern man in his hectic lifestyle is reported to spend most of his time brooding over yesterday and worrying about tomorrow – this according to an article by an eminent psychologist. When we do that, we lose sight of the NOW, the TODAY – the period of time in our hands that slips away minute by minute, never to return.

What have we done TODAY? Have we drawn closer to Hashem? Or have we hardly thought of Him?
Have we done acts of kindness? Or have we been too self-absorbed? Have we made decisions conscious that our actions today will reverberate to our descendants to the 3rd, 4th and even 5th generation?
Or do we base our decisions only on what’s good for me right here and right now?

I ask again – what have we done TODAY?

Several verses later we read, “Not with you alone do I seal this covenant and this oath, but with whoever is here, standing with us today before God, our God, and with whoever is not here today.”
How awesome is it that you and I, living centuries after this particular “TODAY” of our parsha, were included in the sealing of the covenant. Moshe very specifically says, ‘…and to those who are not here today..” That’s us. With these words, the scope of the Covenant of Hashem with Am Yisrael is expanded to create a bond that links ALL Jews in all places at all times. It is this covenant that
enabled our people to maintain their identity, their distinctness and their uniqueness through centuries of exile. It still maintains us today.

Through the verses of the rest of this portion, we have a summation of all of Jewish history, leading up to the glorious period so far off from the day Moshe was speaking – the very period in which WE are privileged to live; the period of RETURN to the Land. In our day, prophecies are being fulfilled at an amazing rate for Hashem promised that He would gather all of His people and bring them to the Land. How many of our ancestors would have loved to be alive to see the events that are part of our everyday life? How grateful we should be.

In Tune with Torah this week = May we live TODAY as if Mashiach was arriving tonight. May we live like that every day.

Shabbat Shalom

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