d’var for parashas Nitzavim 5781

“Ye are standing this day all of you before the L-RD your G-d.”

  • Deuteronomy 29:9, JPS 1917 Tanach

Moshe speaks to the generation of Bnei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) that will soon cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land, under the new leadership of Joshua. Moshe reassures the people that despite their transgressions in the wilderness, they are still “standing this day.” The Hebrew word used for stand in this verse is nitzavim, from the shoresh (root word) NZV, meaning to stand upright. This has the the connotation of moral uprightness.

Moshe explains that they are gathered together, standing before HShem, “that thou shouldest enter (uvalaso) into the covenant of the L-RD thy G-d” (Deuteronomy 29:11, JPS). The shoresh, AVR, meaning to enter, also means to cross over. The use of this word is apropos of Bnei Yisrael’s imminent crossing over the Jordan to Canaan. Figuratively speaking, they are crossing over, i.e., transitioning from wanderers in the wilderness into G-d’s covenantal nation. (The proclamation given by Moses in this passage is a renewal of the covenant).

The Zohar relates the phrase, “Ye are standing this day” to Rosh HaShannah. When we stand before H’Shem on Rosh HaShannah, the Day of Judgment, we are judged for the year; the books are opened, and we hope to be judged favorably, so that we may cross over into a good year. Let us search and try our ways, and return to the L-RD (Lamentations 3:40, JPS), so that we may stand before Him, and be inscribed in the Book of Life.

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