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

“Then God will restore your fortunes and take you back in love…” (Deut. 30:3)

 When people ask me how I’m doing, I usually answer,” I’m still standing, so I’m ahead of the game.”  Parashat Nitzavim offers some Biblical roots of this approach to life.

 Nitzavim opens with Moses, on the last day of his life, proclaiming before the Israelites, “You stand this day, all of you, before your God…” (Deut. 29:8)  The Israelites are about to renew the brit, or covenant, and enter Canaan, fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham.  The parasha, or portion, is future-oriented.  

Nitzavim makes better sense, though, when read in the context of last week’s parasha.  Ki Tavo presents the Israelites with a seemingly clear-cut choice:  follow the Torah and receive a life filled with blessings. Don’t, and receive a life filled with curses.  But it’s not really so cut and dried.  What if you do the right thing most of the time, but not 100% of the time?  Nitzavim offers an answer.

 Nitzavim is God’s reassurance: it’s never too late for things to improve.  Despite the fire and brimstone in Ki Tavo, the Israelites are still standing.  Despite all their shortcomings, backsliding, and obstinacy, they are still standing.  Despite God’s (and Moses’) anger in the desert, they are still standing.  And that is why Parashat Nitzavim is always read the Shabbat before Rosh Hashana, when we begin aseret y’mei t’shuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance, which conclude with Yom Kippur. No matter how tough the year you’ve just had, if you are still standing, you are in position to think about the coming year and how you want to approach it and what you can do to make it better for yourself and the people around you. 

 Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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