This week’s parasha is Nitzavim, “You are standing,” Deuteronomy 29.9 – 30.20.[i] The passage begins with Adonai renewing the covenant with all of Israel before they enter into the Land of Promise. It is important to note here the range of people for whom the covenant is renewed.
“…the heads of your tribes, your elders, your officials, all the men of Israel, your children, your wives, and the outsider within your camp (from your woodchopper to your water carrier).” (Deuteronomy 29.9b-10)
It is not just the leaders, the tribal patriarchs, husbands and sons; it is everyone, males and females, native born, as well as the גֵּר—the stranger or sojourner, temporary dweller of new-comer (one with no inherited rights). The importance of this listing is that each and every individual who choose to follow the God of Israel was included in the renewal of the covenant. Equally important is the inclusion of the people standing before the LORD at that time as well as those in future generations. He affirms that “Not with you alone am I cutting this covenant and this oath, but with whomever is standing here with us today before Adonai our God and with whomever is not here with us today” (Deuteronomy 29.13-14). This is reminiscent of Passover, “You are to tell your son on that day saying, ‘It is because of what Adonai did for me when I came out of Egypt’” (Exodus 13.8). Adonai’s actions on our behalf are not just an historical event but they continue throughout generations. His covenant is eternal; His deliverance is eternal.
Not only is the LORD’s covenantal relationship with Israel eternal, but the fulfilling of that relationship is not out of reach for Israel. Moses tells Israel that Adonai will rejoice over Israel and make us prosper, if we obey Him and keep His commandments, and that this is doable. “For this mitzvah that I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it far off. … No, the word is very near to you—in your mouth and in your heart, to do it. (Deuteronomy 30.11 & 14)
Rav Shaul echoed this when he told the believers in Rome, “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart – that is the word of faith that we are proclaiming” (Romans 10.8). Likewise, Yeshua proclaimed, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets! I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5.17). Then later He stated, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and ‘you will find rest for your souls.’ For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11.29-30). This is why Adonai could encourage Israel, as well as us today, through Moshe when he stated,
“…I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life so that you and your descendants may live, by loving Adonai your God, listening to His voice, and clinging to Him.” (Deuteronomy 30.19-20)
The Haftarah, the seventh and last of the Haftarot of Consolation, is found in Isaiah 61.10 – 63.9. Toward the end of the passage the prophet makes a passionate declaration, “I will remember the loving kindnesses of Adonai, the praises of Adonai, according to all that Adonai has granted us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has granted them according to His compassion, and according to the abundance of His loving kindnesses” (Isaiah 63.7). Regardless of all the discipline, the pain a suffering that Israel’s disobedience brought about, Isaiah still rejoices as he remembers the loving kindness of the LORD, that which is rooted in His compassion and mercy. Remember, in Mishlei (Proverbs) the author wrote
My son, never despise Adonai’s discipline or dread His correction. For Adonai loves those He reproves, even as a father, the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3.11-12; cf. Hebrews 12.5-6)
The translation of Isaiah 63 by Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg on the Chabad website states, “The kind acts of the Lord I will mention,” which is influenced by Rashi’s comment, “The prophet says, I will remind Israel of the kind acts of the Lord.”[ii] It is not enough that we, individually, remember the grace and mercy of the LORD, it is necessary that we proclaim His wonders among others (Psalm 22.22; 118.17). As we prepare to enter into the Days of Awe, the time of introspection and self-examination, let us, like Isaiah and the psalmist, also remember that the LORD is the Author and Finisher of our faith; He is full of compassion and mercy if we will only turn to Him. – And then with the psalmist let us proclaim
Praise Adonai, for He is good,
for His lovingkindness endures forever.
Let the redeemed of Adonai say so,
whom He redeemed from the hand of the foe…
[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible.