“Harry thought. Then he said slowly, “It shows us what we want . . . whatever we want . . .” “Yes and no,” said Dumbledore quietly. “It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts . . . However, this mirror will give us neither truth nor knowledge. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible . . . It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
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.”
Although the Israelites have been told of a dream-like land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exod. 13:5, Deut. 6:3, and elsewhere), they are now reminded that they have also been given a tangible tool: Torah. As Professor Dumbledore tells Harry Potter, dreaming is only productive if it informs how we live. This, too, is the message of Parashat Nitzavim. Instead of dwelling on a dream that is (thus far) ephemeral, we are told that the Torah is in our hands. What will we choose to do with it?