"You stand this day, (Atem Nitzvavim HaYom) 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; to the end that He may establish you this day as His people and be your God, as He promised you and as He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with you alone, but both with those who are standing here with us this day before the LORD our God and with those who are not with us here this day."
We begin our parashah of the week, Nitzavim, with an incredibly inclusive teaching - all of us, no matter how age, gender, profession, or net worth stand before God and each other in a holy covenant. This powerful message teaches us that we are all on this historical journey together, even when we disagree, even when our perspectives conflict with one another. It was perhaps our standing together at Sinai that gives us the strength to continue on the journey, no matter its difficulty.
As we read this passage, we are reminded that we are part of a covenantal community, a community that is expansive enough to include those who stood at that moment at Sinai, as well as those who were strangers and yet still were welcome to dwell among the people, and the many who were not present at the time.
It is no coincidence that we read this piece of Torah during the High Holiday season. We stand before God, all of us, in judgement, but is God the only judge? How many times do we judge each other, even ourselves, often times unfairly? Rabbi Moshe Alsheikh, the great 16th century mystic and commentator, notes that we humans do not know how to evaluate each other properly--this is only known by God. There are people who may seem important to us--but who are deficient in the eyes of God. There are people who may seem insignificant to us--but who are highly regarded by the Almighty.
I often say that other places in town are fond of counting people, but here at Shaarei Kodesh, we make people count.
Looking Back & Facing Forward Together
Something New This Year...
Something new we will be doing this year on Rosh Hashanah is publicly showing how our people 'count' in our lives. During our Torah service, I am going to ask our community to share a simcha that you WILL experience in the new year, 5780. Whether it is a birth, a graduation, a wedding, a bar/bat mitzvah, any time of joy that you will experience this year and you want to share! This will be before the first aliyah on Monday so please come early if you'd like to share your simcha!
On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, I am going to ask those who have survived a life threatening event in the past year to come up and say a collective Gomel prayer. The Gomel prayer is a prayer where we thank God for having been saved from danger and calamity. The person who is grateful for their lives says, "Praised are You, our God, ruler of time and space, who bestows goodness on us despite our imperfections, and who has treated me so favorably." Together we will hold this group in our hands as we respond to them: "May the One who has shown such favor to you continue to bestow all that is good upon you." Through the recitation of this blessing, we summon support from all those who care about our welfare.
There will be a separate Rosh Hashanah message that I will be sending after this one, but in the mean time, Shabbat Shalom and thank you for all the gifts you bring to our holy community.
Rabbi David Baum