“Nitzavim”, is easily one of the most dynamic of all of our portions. It is so powerful that we will visit it again on Yom Kippur. The texts give rise to numerous interpretations and countless sermons on the contents of the reading. For us this week, let me offer a take on the opening of the portion. In Deuteronomy 29:9 we read” “You are standing this day” (“atem nitzvaim ha’yom”). Let’s look at that word “standing”.
We live in a time when it seems frustrating to try and make sense of the world. We often seem to say, either in public or to ourselves, what is the use of getting involved as the issues and problems are so overwhelming. We literally stand still. But that is not the message of this portion. And notice, it is read on the eve of the new year, as Elul ends, so it can capture some of the power of the Holidays. The call of this portion is NOT to stand still, but to slowly move forward, literally, one “day” (yom) at a time. Rabbi Twerski in his “Growing Each Day” commentary writes on this passage: “You are standing in a stationary position before God, instead of progressing. Everyone seems to have found a niche in which he or she feels comfortable, and no one is making an effort to elevate himself or herself beyond the level of spirituality which has already been achieved.” The context, of course, for this is Moses and his admonition to the Israelites. Yet, look at this personally. How many of us, as 5777 dawns, have stood still spiritually, emotionally? What “Nitzavim” may be telling us is that there is no better time than now, this day (yom) to stop “standing around” and to have the courage to begin to move forward spiritually.
If you read through the portion, you can easily see the thrust of the verses is to move people forward in their life. The portion sets this up in terms of the choices we are called on to make in life. As for Boomers, this passage is also so timely for many of us arrive at this stage in life seemingly content to “stand” and just “be”. Yet, increasingly, as every article, study and report seems to show, Boomers may be the first “elder” cohort to take Moses’s charge seriously. With the gift of life we have been given, many of us are not ready to “stand still”. The future awaits, it is unknown yet filled with promise, and there is no better time to start this journey than “ha’ yom” (today!)
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.