D’var Torah For Friday, September 23, 2022

This week we will be reading from parashat Nitzavim. It begins atem nitzavim hayom kulchem
lifnei Adonai Eloheichem, Roshei’chem, shivteichem, zikneichem, v’shotreichem kol ish Yisrael,
“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.” 1

It is both a powerful statement and reminder to all of us. When it came to revelation and
inheriting the tradition, everyone counted and everyone mattered no matter their station, no
matter their position in life. That part is clear. What is less clear is the statement at the end, “and
with those who are not with us here today.” In this passage, we are left wondering, who is Moses
talking about? He certainly cannot be referring to those who died in the journey, because their
time has passed. And he cannot be talking about the patriarchs and matriarchs, Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. Who then is he referring to?

There is a Midrash that comes to teach us that this reference is in fact with regards those future
generations yet to come. It is as if, we were all there together to accept the tradition.

As the old story goes, there were two Jews standing in New York City. One looks at the other
and says, “You look familiar.” The other replies, “No I am pretty sure I have never met you
before.” “No I am sure we have met,” the first one says with certainty. This led to a game of
Jewish Geography, talking about where they grew up, schoolmates, family, friends, doctors …
strangely without ever finding a connection. When finally, the first man says, “Aha. I know
where I have seen you, I stood next to you at Sinai.”

We all stood together at Sinai, which means we all have the choice and the opportunity to
continue to stand together. And we have the obligation to teach our heritage to those who will
follow after us. This past Sunday morning I went around sounding the shofar for all of our
religious school students. Not all of them will be at our High Holy Day services, but at least this
way, all of them will have a chance to hear that annual call to stand with one another.

Nitzavim is thus reminding us of how we are all in the same boat. And no matter where we are in
life, it is reminding us of our connections to one another. And more importantly, we all have
sacred responsibilities towards one another through both our accepting and embracing our
tradition through acts of teshuvah, tzedakah, gemilut chasidim, tikkun olam, and the performance
of mitzvot.

Each day we choose to stand together. By making this choice, not only are we choosing life and
blessing, but we are also choosing to save a place for those who will come after us. Those who
will pick up the shofar and sound it for the generations to come.

To amend the text just a little, anachnu nitzavim hayom, we all stand here this day. And because
of it, may we all be blessed through one another as we enter into this New Year.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Benjamin A. Sharff
1 Deuteronomy 29:9-14