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Parashat Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20)

“Concealed acts are for the Lord our God; but revealed acts are for us and our children,
forever, to carry out all the words of this Torah.” (Deuteronomy 29:28)

Greta Thunberg is extraordinary. Few adults, let alone teenagers, have both the moral clarity and emotional strength to stand in front of the world and speak truth to power. In calling out the representatives to the UN to their faces on climate change (“How dare you?”) she gives voice to 21st Century fears while echoing the ancient message of Parashat Nitzavim.

Nitzavim opens with Moses, on the last day of his life, preparing the Israelites to renew the brit, or covenant, and enter Canaan, fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham. He implores the people not to fool themselves into thinking they can avoid the consequences of their actions. He warns, “Later generations will ask—the children who succeed you, and foreigners who come from distant lands and see the plagues and diseases the Lord has inflicted upon that land, all its soil devastated by sulfur and salt, beyond sowing and producing, no grass growing in it… all nations will ask, “Why…?” (Deut. 29: 21-23)

Now, Moses is talking theology while Greta is talking science. Still, the consequences are the same in each scenario: hubris causes the land to fail catastrophically. Moses and Greta are asking their respective audiences the same existential question: with so much at stake, why would you be so shortsighted and knowingly compromise the future?

The brit is a reciprocal pact with God, eternally binding on all generations, past, present, and future (Deut. 29:13-14). Moses begs the Israelites to remember their obligation to God; Greta begs the UN to not forget its obligation to her entire generation and all that follow. Kein y’hi ratzon. So may it be.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom
A Gut Yohr/Shana Tova/Happy New Year

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