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09/22/2022 08:19:00 AM

Sep22

WHERE ARE WE STANDING?

 

This week’s Torah portion Nitzavim begins “You are standing this day, all of you, before the Eternal your God” (Deut. 29: verse 1). We, the children of Israel are almost, but not quite, ready to cross into the promised land. That parallels our journey in the present day as we progress through the Jewish year; here we are poised to complete the cycle, to come back to our starting place and begin again. Jewish commentators have made much of the continuation of the portion where the “you” of the opening verse is fleshed out as meaning not only those physically present, but all the coming generations of Israel as well. Even you and I living in a time so distant from our forebears were included in the covenant God reminds us about. But time affects many things, and we are not immune to its passage.

It's no surprise that attendance in many liberal synagogues is lower than usual on the Shabbat before Rosh HaShana. We are gearing up to celebrate a New Year for a full two days after all. But just as I think about how exciting it is to begin a new and unknown year I wonder how the Israelites felt standing in Moab, on the brink of entry to Canaan. They were about to leave an existence that, while precarious, was familiar. Were they anxious, did they harbor doubts as to the surety of the promises they received that the land would be flowing with milk and honey? The answer we read in this week’s portion is: we can rely on our covenant with God to sustain us. The language is straightforward and accessible: “Surely, this instruction (mitzvah) which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach.” (Deut. 30:11) We have the tools to make ethical decisions and live a life that reflects our values; it is a matter of our priorities what that will look like.

The coming Shabbat is our last for 5782. Let’s take the time to examine our hearts and consider the possibility that the decisions we made this year may not be those that will guide us best in 5783. May we look ahead with hope and continue to learn from our mistakes, lest they define what the future will be for us.                  Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova    

Rabbi Leah Benamy

Mon, December 5 2022 11 Kislev 5783