This week's parsha, Nitzavim, is always read on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah. This passage has numerous parts that relate to Rosh Hashanah. The book of Nitzavim discusses our devotion to G-d, The Torah, as well as the mitzvot. Moshe talks about the covenant between G-d and Israel, insisting that Israel uphold the covenant and follow the ways of the Torah for a meaningful life in the land of Israel.
In Hebrew the word Nitzavim means “you are standing”. Moshe was telling the Israelites “You are all standing this day before Hashem, your G-d” exhorting them to keep their side of the agreement; the covenant. The covenant can be seen as a symbol of the Israelites' love for Hashem. Hashem freed the Israelites from years of slavery and led them on their journey through the desert. This can be seen as the event that created the Jewish people and forged their bond with Hashem, as described by the prophets Hosea, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel:
“So said Hashem: I remember to you the loving kindness of your youth … your following Me in the desert, in a land not sown." Jeremiah 2, 2
Moshe devoted himself to Hashem and the Israelites, doing all he could to strengthen their growing relationship. When talking to the Israelites in our parsha Moshe said: “G-d will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants to love G-d so that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6). Moshe is making a promise to the Israelites: If the Israelites abandon G-d and his ways, after all that Hashem has given to them, it would be a breach of the covenant. When he said “G-d will circumcise your heart”, it is encouraging them, implying that Hashem will remove obstacles that ‘block’ their hearts from connecting to Him.
In the same way, when a Jewish boy is eight days old, he has a Brit Milah: a ceremony during which a circumcision is performed. He becomes connected to Hashem. If the Israelities followed the covenant, Hashem would metaphorically circumcise them, connecting all of Israelites to Hashem.
The symbol of the covenant is something we can use in our everyday lives, in school, in our social lives and or work. The promise of love and trust is the basis of a strong relationship. Hashem and the Israelites had a strong and beautiful relationship, making them connected on a spiritual and physical level. Being metaphorically connected (“Circumcision of the Israelites hearts”) and having secure and meaningful relationships is what we as people strive for. Between teacher and student, mother and child, friends, grandparents, having solid relationships connects us with everyone in our lives.
With Rosh Hashanah coming up, this is the time we need to start doing teshuva,the Jewish practice of atoning for our sins. Judaism recognizes that everybody sins- has obstacles - on occasion, but that people can stop or minimise those occasions in the future by repenting for past transgressions. This is a core principle of Judaism, especially around the time of the Jewish New Year.
With this in mind, before we go off on our holiday, let us think about our relationships with others, and reflect on how we can make these connections stronger. Let us all aim for a relationship like Moshe’s with the Israelites and Hashem with his people.
Orly, Grade 11