Not only will we be reading from Nitzavim-Vayeilech for this Shabbat, but it is also the final Shabbat of 5780 that also happens to fall on the nineteenth anniversary of 9/11. So much has changed in the world as next Shabbat we will be ushering in the New Year not together, but virtually due to the ongoing pandemic.
In Nitzavim we read, “You stand this day, all of you before the Eternal your God – you tribal heads, you elders, and you officials, all the men of Israel. You children, you women, even the stranger in within your camp, from the woodchopper to the water drawer – to enter into the covenant of the Eternal your God, which the Eternal is concluding with you this day, with its sanctions; in order to establish you this day as God’s people and in order to be your God, as promised you and as sworn to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with you alone, but both those who are standing here with us this day before the Eternal our God and with those who are not with us here this day.”
As a people, we are constantly challenged by our tradition to live in the past, in the present and in the future. In the past, we remember our ancestors and their journeys, their trials and their tribulations. In the present, we are compelled to think of our obligations and of the infinite sense of what is possible. In the future, we are commanded to think of those who will come after us, and how our choices today will have numerous impacts upon their lives tomorrow.
This task is daunting and overwhelming. For on this Shabbat, we not only remember the covenant God made with our ancestors long ago and the promises contained within. On this Shabbat we also remember whose lives were cut short due to the acts of violence and hate in New York, Washington D.C. and that empty field in Stony Creek Township, Pennsylvania. And on this Shabbat we think of the promises of what a New Year can bring even while struggling with the numerous challenges our world has thrown our way.
In this one day there is heartbreak and despair. There is also hope and determination. But perhaps, most importantly, there is also resolve.
We stand here this day, amidst a world literally in flames; a world filled with ongoing heartbreak; a world turn asunder. Yet through it all, we stand, all of us. This past year and this coming year may be some of the most challenging we have faced in recent memory, but nonetheless, we stand, all of us. We stand united in our faith and in our tradition knowing that our lives, like those who came before us and those whose lives were tragically cut short, have meaning. We stand here this day knowing that we shall overcome these most challenging of times to try to transform the next year into one of blessing. And we stand here this day knowing that if we should trip or fall, there will be others standing next to us to help pick us back up.
Perhaps on this Shabbat, it is enough, simply to know that we stand, all of us, together determined to take on what this Shabbat and what this coming year will bring.
Rabbi Benjamin Sharff
 Deuteronomy 29:9-14