Choosing to Choose

Choosing to Choose

Sep 3, 2021 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Nitzavim | Rosh Hashanah

The rabbis taught that Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of the world, or by some accounts, the sixth day of creation, the day that humanity was created. Liturgically, the day is seen as more than just an anniversary. We pray “Hayom Harat Olam,” today the world is born, suggesting that the world, humanity, and each of us individually, are created “today,” every Rosh Hashanah.

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Democratizing Education: Lessons from this Week’s Parashah

Democratizing Education: Lessons from this Week’s Parashah

Sep 8, 2020 By Michal Raucher | Commentary | Nitzavim | Vayeilekh

Since the start of the stay-at-home orders in March, my eight-year-old son, Naftali, has studied Mishnah on Zoom in a “Mishnah Club” for kids, taught by Rabbi Ethan Tucker (KS ‘06) of Hadar Institute. While my spouse teaches Mishnah to middle school students and my own scholarship involves a healthy feminist critique of the talmudic Rabbis, Naftali had never encountered rabbinic literature. I feared that Naftali might get lost in the complexity, become overwhelmed with the details, or confused by the logic of rabbis from 2000 years ago. I was also curious as to whether he would actually see himself in this discourse.

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We Need Each Other

We Need Each Other

Sep 27, 2019 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Nitzavim | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

One of the greatest privileges and responsibilities of a rabbi is to train candidates for conversion to Judaism. Such people are often spiritual seekers, and their questions challenge teachers whose Jewish identity and practice are well established. Why do you do this? What do you believe? What does this text mean? Will this practice make any difference? Faced with such inquiries, it becomes harder for teachers to treat ritual as habit, and faith as dogma. The questions posed by converts, children, or adults who are first discovering the depths of Judaism are exciting to those of us who teach Torah, forcing us to reexamine our own beliefs and practices.

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Remember the Children!

Remember the Children!

Sep 7, 2018 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Nitzavim | Rosh Hashanah

The cries of children, and the sobbing of parents, ring in our ears each Rosh Hashanah. The Torah and haftarah readings emphasize the perils faced by sons Ishmael and Isaac, and the terrors experienced by mothers Hagar, Sarah, Hannah, and Rachel. To witness a child in danger evokes a nearly universal response to rush to the rescue. Implicit in this collection of texts is the plea that God look upon us—the Jewish people—as vulnerable children, that divine mercies might be stirred, and forgiveness extended to us all. Just as the mothers of Israel were stirred with mercy, we ask that God be moved to show us love.

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Woodcutters and Water Drawers

Woodcutters and Water Drawers

Sep 15, 2017 By Shira D. Epstein | Commentary | Nitzavim | Vayeilekh

The opening verses of this week’s parashah pronounce that the entirety of Israel stands before God to enter into the covenant: the leaders, the elders, the officers; every man, child, woman, and convert, as well as the “woodcutters and water drawers” (Deut. 29:9–10). Unlike some other Torah excerpts that clearly demarcate mitzvot reserved for a particular classification of people, all people are told to show up in this moment. They are beckoned to view themselves as integral parts of an expansive and inclusive community.

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The Choice

The Choice

Sep 15, 2017 By Rachel Rosenthal | Commentary | Nitzavim | Vayeilekh

Imagine if you could choose your future—not know it, but choose it. What would happen to you? Would you live forever? Would you choose how you were going to die? What would be your legacy? If you could, would you turn fantasy into reality?

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Returning <em>with</em> God

Returning with God

Sep 30, 2016 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Nitzavim

This week’s Torah Portion, Nitzavim, speaks profoundly about teshuvah, the literal and figurative struggle to return to God. When we turn back to God “with all [our] heart and soul,” the parashah tells us, then God “will bring you together again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you” (Deut 30:3). Being scattered is a state of disorientation and disconnection. Teshuvah represents a coming home. There’s an organic connection between the return to the Land of Israel—the land at the center of the Jewish soul, from which we have been banished—and the return that involves changing our ways and opening our hearts to God.

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So Close to Me

So Close to Me

Sep 30, 2016 By Bronwen Mullin | Commentary | Nitzavim

You say it’s in my heart
Like my heart is less a mystery than the great expanse of heaven
You say it’s in my heart
Like my heart is less a threatening thing than the deepest darkest ocean

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Safe in God’s Memory

Safe in God’s Memory

Sep 11, 2015 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Nitzavim | Rosh Hashanah

This week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim, contains stunningly beautiful verses that teach us that God’s Torah “is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it” (Deut. 30:14). The language of the verses is full of rich, physical imagery, “It is not in the heavens, that you should say, ‘Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?’” The Torah, the wisdom, is not far away, is not other. It is in our hearts. If we give our hearts space to be known and embraced, our hearts can share the wisdom that dwells inside. With this space, the wisdom of Torah emerges in new ways. It is not general; it is very specific to each person, to the challenges and blessings that he or she has encountered in his or her life.

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Beyond Dreams

Beyond Dreams

Sep 11, 2015 By Rachel Rosenthal | Commentary | Nitzavim

Their moment has almost come. The Children of Israel stand poised on the edge of the Jordan about to enter the Land. The moment of their dreams is about to become reality. However, a new era of responsibility is about to begin as well. The Children of Israel will no longer be able to look to God to fulfill their every need. Instead, they must learn to support themselves and to take responsibility for their own behavior. As God tells the people in this week’s parashah, “It is not in the heavens . . . Rather, the thing is very close to you, in your mouths and in your hearts so that you can fulfill it.” 

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The Covenant and the Land

The Covenant and the Land

Sep 19, 2014 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Nitzavim | Vayeilekh

At the opening of Parashat Nitzavim, the Israelites stand rooted before Moses and God. A captive and diverse audience, they are recipients of a message that is both immediate and transcendent in nature.

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Choose Life and Torah

Choose Life and Torah

Sep 19, 2014 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Nitzavim | Vayeilekh

The Torah wants to speak to Children of Israel in every time and place, in a way that leads them—leads us—to carry forward the project that Moses has directed. It succeeds in that effort: we too are stirred by Moses’s language, compelled by his vision, moved to undertake responsibility for his Torah. Four passages in Parashat Nitzavim seem to me especially crucial to Moses’s teaching and our response.

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To What Shall We Return?

To What Shall We Return?

Aug 28, 2013 By Lisa Gelber | Commentary | Nitzavim | Vayeilekh

As we engage in teshuvah, (re)turning to the deep, soulful place hidden beneath the barriers we erect for others and ourselves, we must ask ourselves to what we are returning and how that relocation will manifest itself in our lives.

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Moving Forward Meaningfully

Moving Forward Meaningfully

Aug 28, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Nitzavim | Vayeilekh | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

The parashiyot of Nitzavim–Vayeilekh are intimately woven into the rhythm of the liturgical year as they are typically read either immediately preceding Rosh Hashanah or during the intervening Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

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The Strength of Our Communities

The Strength of Our Communities

Sep 18, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Nitzavim | Vayeilekh

At this season of self-reflection, our thoughts naturally turn to our own individual acts of the year gone by. But the teshuvah process climaxes on the Yamim Nora’im, when we stand together in packed sanctuaries, finding power in our solidarity as a community.

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What Is Love?

What Is Love?

Oct 1, 2005 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Nitzavim

Love is surely a tough emotional state to prescribe by law.

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Torah In Our Mouths

Torah In Our Mouths

Oct 1, 2005 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Nitzavim

Mystical streams within any given religion would have us believe that to be in God’s presence, one must separate oneself wholly from the material world. Routine distractions must be cast aside in order to experience the sacred. Yet, while meditation and reflection have their place in religious encounters, Judaism places its emphasis and value on the attachment to community. Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of Our Ancestors, teaches, “Do not separate yourself from the community.” The locus of moral and ethical strivings must be rooted in the building of life. Prolonged separation from community often leads one to paths of selfishness, zealotry, and destruction. Parashat Nitzavim is timed perfectly before the renewal of our Jewish lives on Rosh Hashanah – reminding us precisely how close a life of holiness is to our everyday lives.

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Torah and Teshuvah

Torah and Teshuvah

Sep 20, 2003 By Lauren Eichler Berkun | Commentary | Nitzavim | Vayeilekh | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

The beautiful and famous words of this week’s parashah have always touched my heart. This year, I read the following passage with new lenses, as I immerse myself in the month of Elul and the spiritual preparations for teshuvah. The Torah teaches:

“Surely, this Instruction (Ha-Mitzvah Ha-Zot) which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, ‘Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who among us can cross the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?’ No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it” (Deut. 30:11-14).

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How To Choose Life

How To Choose Life

Aug 31, 2002 By Melissa Crespy | Commentary | Nitzavim | Vayeilekh | Rosh Hashanah

We stand at an exciting and important time in the Jewish year. We stand less than two weeks before Rosh Hashanah, when so many of us will spend hours in synagogue praying for a good, healthy and fulfilling new year. We stand in a moment of transition, filled with potential. There is so much we can do, so much we can learn, so much we can become.

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Nitzavim

Nitzavim

Jan 1, 1980

10 I greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My whole being exults in my God.

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