ABRAHAM’S TENT: Week #46 Nitzavim | Those Standing (Here, Now), Choose Life

This week’s portion is called Nitzavim or ‘All those standing’ (here) (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20).

It is a great and metaphysical moment in the Torah. Moses is speaking to the most common person in the nation mentioning the two most menial of workers (wood choppers, and water bearers), as well as those who are not presently there-that means YOU! (Deut. 29:9-14).

This means that no matter how mighty, smart, scholarly, or if you’re a ditch digger, you are going to be responsible for what comes after this statement. You are without excuse or ignorance to perform what Moses is about to lay down.
As with last week’s portion, where we traditionally say ‘Amen’ during our ketubah, this week, we stand from the beginning of this portion, to remind us that Moses is speaking to us and all future generations.

Moses is presenting us with the “how-to” application of observing this Torah. He knows that we will see great trials and triumphs. Moses has seen how we will move from physical sacrifices to prayer and tzadakkah.

He knows of the horrors of Amelek, and his genocidal attempts.

He also knows of the possible missteps in which we fall into idolatry, and our awakening of that error, as well as movement out of its grasp.
Moses ends with a simple application of how we are to be agents of the Messianic Age.
In the end of warnings and blessings he gives us a simple application of how to be on the path even when there is no one around to guide us.

It is found in the end of Deuteronomy chapter 30: 11-19

11 For this commandment which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away.

12It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?”    
13Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?”    
14Rather,[this] thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.    
15Behold, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil,    
16inasmuch as I command you this day to love the Lord, your God, to walk in His ways, and to observe His commandments, His statutes, and His ordinances, so that you will live and increase, and the Lord, your God, will bless you in the land to which you are coming to take possession of it.    
17But if your heart deviates and you do not listen, and you will be drawn astray, and you will prostrate yourself to other deities and serve them,    
18I declare to you this day, that you will surely perish, and that you will not live long days on the land, to which you are crossing the Jordan, to come and take possession thereof.    
19This day, I call upon the heaven and the earth as witnesses [that I have warned] you: I have set before you- life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live. “

It is a great definition of Judaism is one paragraph. We don’t need to get someone from Heaven to come down and teach it or some person from a foreign place to break it down for us to perform.

We have all we need in the Torah and in ourselves – both as individuals and as a community. No need for a superhero on a white horse to bring about peace, love, and mercy. It is within us from the start.

We are “moshiach” in this verse.

Moses is teaching us that even the barista in the local coffee shop has the ability to bring about Tikkun Olam.

In fact, he/she was born for the very purpose, and so are YOU.

This portion is both a declaration and a prophecy. Moses Prophesies that we will be here doing and working in small and great ways to bring about the messianic age. That all, not just the Kohenim, or the Rabbis, but ALL of us are necessary to do the work to make the world whole again.

To quote the Ethics of our Fathers Chapter 2:15-16:

“15. Rabbi Tarfon would say: The day is short, the work is much, the workers are lazy, the reward is great, and the Master is pressing.

  1. He would also say: It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it. If you have learned much Torah, you will be greatly rewarded, and your employer is trustworthy to pay you the reward of your labors. And know, that the reward of the righteous is in the World to Come.”

    The work is great and we have the choice to either do it, and be blessed, or not do it, and hold back the World to Come.
    We were called for greatness – regardless of our skills, our gifts, or, our status.

    Yet we are called.

    G-D pleas with us to choose life


(L’Shana Tova)

Next Week: Vayelech: Go out – be strong and courageous.

Dir. Rel. Ed and History