This week’s parasha, Nitzavim, Moses gathers the people together. It’s the day before he dies.
He says “You are standing today, all of you, before the Lord, your God.” He goes on to describe everyone who is gathered there – the heads of tribes, elders, officers, men, children, women, those who have converted and the people who draw water and chop wood. With everyone together, he has the people reaffirm their covenant with God – that the Jews will be God’s people, and will be rewarded with a good life in Israel. If they go astray and begin to believe that the good things they enjoy are due to their own work, and not God, and wander to idol worship, they will be cursed by being removed from the Land.
Having brought together all the Children of Israel, from the most distinguished to the most humble, Moses then joins together those in front of him with those to come until the end of time: “Not with you alone do I seal this covenant and this curse, but with whomever is here, standing with us today before the Lord, our God, and with whomever is not here with us today.”
Moses ends by explaining that the Torah’s commandments are not far away: “It is not in heaven … Nor is it across the sea. … Rather the matter is very near to you – in your mouth and your heart – to perform it.”
I love the equality and inclusiveness of Moses’ teaching in this parasha. The lesson I get is that the Torah is for everyone, and it can be performed by everyone.
Next week is Rosh Hashonah, and the new year is a good time to try new things. If you are not sure what mitzvot and lessons from the Torah you should try, begin with a list you know. Take one of the points of the Scout Law and ask your rabbi or teacher how you can use Judaism to improve your skill in that area.
Want to be more Helpful? Do some additional jobs at home, and you will honor your parents, as instructed by the Fifth Commandment.
Interested in being more Friendly? In Pirke Avot (Sayings of the Fathers) 1:15, the Talmudic Sage Shammai teaches us “Receive every person with a pleasant expression,” so smile and say “hi”.
Looking for another way to be Kind? Invite the new student in school to come on your next campout or hike, and welcome strangers as our Patriarch Abraham did.
Remember, “the matter is very near to you – in your mouth and your heart – to perform it.”
Shabbat shalom, and Shanah Tovah – Happy New Year.