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Parashat Nitzavim-Vayeilech

September 8, 2023
22 Elul 5783

Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30

Dear Friends,

This week’s double portion is Nitzavim-Vayeilech -- You Are Standing And He Went (Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30). Indeed, we are standing and Moses is preparing to depart from the land of the living, getting ready for his final oration. The image that comes to me is that we are ready along with the Israelites, although what we are preparing for is not quite the same transition that they are preparing for as they get ready to enter the land without Moses’ leadership.

We read this Torah portion just as we are getting ready to welcome the New Year, a time of introspection and reflection, a time to work toward becoming our best selves. This Torah portion contains within it an empowering charge by Moses: “I call heaven and earth to witness you today: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse — therefore choose life! Choose life so you and your children may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19). It is a stark reminder that the time is now. This moment will never come again and we are invited to do our very best: the best we can do today, not what we did yesterday or may be able to do tomorrow. Quick, before the moment slips away! It is not far away; rather it is front of us and within us, an opportunity to bring our best selves forward.

Rosh Hashanah is about to begin on Friday evening, and we pray “Hayom Harat Olam” -- “today the world is born." Please notice the present tense; we and the world are born again each and every day that we are in the world. What an incredible opportunity! We get to start again each and every day as if the world were being created anew. On Rosh Hashanah, we are reminded of this amazing gift. Although we may have not yet taken full advantage of the gifts we each possess, Rosh Hashanah is a potent reminder that we still have time to act and become.

Some might prefer the rabbinic view found in Pirkei Avot. The rabbis teach: Repent one day before your death. Unlike Moses, the vast majority of us do not know when we will be leaving this world, so this teaching is used to implore us to do our very best each and every day.

I leave you with the thought that it is imperative to choose life, not out of fear but out of hope This then is our call to action, to stand together, to choose a path that is life affirming, not only for ourselves but for the next generation as we remember that each day the world is reborn.

As we prepare to join one another over this holiday in prayer and song, I share this final Elul thought.

voices lifted
familiar melodies
transporting us through time and space

Joy and sorrow linked
embraced by the sound
sounds connecting making music
lifting us up

Voices rising to the heavens
a reminder
we are here
and we hold one another with our song of life

נה טובה ומתוקה
Shana Tova U’ Metuka

Tue, October 3 2023 18 Tishrei 5784