Parashat Nitzavim-Vayeilech: Lo Bashamayim Hi
Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it. See, I set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity. For I command you this day, to love the Eternal your God, to walk in God’s ways, and to keep God’s commandments, God’s laws, and God’s rules, that you may thrive and increase, and that the Eternal your God may bless you in the land that you are about to enter and possess. But if your heart turns away and you give no heed, and are lured into the worship and service of other gods, I declare to you this day that you shall certainly perish; you shall not long endure on the soil that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life—if you and your offspring would live— by loving the Eternal your God, heeding God’s commands, and holding fast to God. For thereby you shall have life and shall long endure upon the soil that the Eternal swore to your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give to them.
Here it is, folks. Could any statement be more clear? More empowering? Last week, we looked at the idea of CHOICE. Though not everything is in our control, there is so much that IS. Parashat Nitzavim-Vayeilech (Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30) is comprised of two week’s of parshiyot: Nitzavim (Deut. 29:9-30:20) and Vayeilech (Deut. 31:1-30). So many of these verses are familiar. We read them on Yom Kippur Morning, and we read them this Shabbat.
It’s a perfect time of year to hear these words twice. They capture so much of the urgency, the nudging, and the encouragement of the High Holy Day season. “Come on,” I imagine the text saying to us. “You can do this. You can make a better choice. You can start a new page, or a new chapter of your life, right this minute.”
Are we choosing life? Are we choosing life-affirming actions and deeds? Are we waiting for someone else to tell us what to do?
Are we blaming others for our misfortunes? Are we consciously or unconsciously self-destructive?
THIS is the moment. THIS is the turning point, if we but take the time to turn. The answers are not far away, and they are not restricted to some other class or group that needs to explain it to you. You’ve got this. You can do this.
Join me on the precipice, friends. Let’s take the brave leap into a new year filled with hope, justice, mercy, and awareness.
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah!
NOTE: Saturday night, September 16, is the holiday of Selichot, our “warm-up” holiday before Rosh Hashanah and the Days of Awe. Our night of learning and prayer begins at 6:30 pm, with a screening of the musical film, Into the Woods (2014). We’ll then have a discussion on the themes of the movie which speak directly to the themes of the Holy Days, followed by our Selichot Service. The CBSRZ Adult Choir will be joining us for worship, and we’ll all take part in changing the Torah mantles from blue to white. Our evening should conclude by 10:30pm with the sounding of the shofar. I hope you’ll join us for this important step along the path of repentance and return. All are welcome.