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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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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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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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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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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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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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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