“But I am not making this covenant and this oath only with you. Rather, I am making it both with those who are standing here with us today before HaShem our God and also with those who are not here with us today.” –Deuteronomy 29:13-14
This week’s Torah portions, Nitzavim-vayelech, are spoken to the entirety of the Jewish people. What is unique about these parashiot is that they are spoken not just to those physically present at that moment, but to the entirety of the Jewish people in every generation.
Moshe is calling the Jewish people to covenant renewal – to renew the commitment made by the previous generation to walk in the ways of HaShem and to observe His mitzvot. It is interesting to keep in mind that when Moshe is echoing this, it is a different generation than those who stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and originally experienced the receiving of the Torah. This was the following generation, listening to Moshe at the end of his life (according to tradition, this instruction was on the last day of his life). Yet, Moshe speaks to them as though they are the original generation, beginning, “Today you are standing, all of you, before HaShem your God (Deut. 29:9).”
Why does Moshe do this? Because according to God there is no difference. The entirety of the Jewish people entered into a covenant relationship with God at Mount Sinai – not just that generation, but every generation of Jews to forever follow. How can that be? Because:
“I am not making this covenant and this oath only with you. Rather, I am making it both with those who are standing here with us today before HaShem our God and also with those who are not here with us today (Deut. 29:13-14).”
At Sinai, the entirety of the Jewish people accepted the Torah.
However, each generation, and each individual, must renew their commitment to the covenant. Each of us must constantly choose to walk in the way of the LORD, and to pursue His mitzvot. A life of covenant faithfulness is not easy, but God has not called us to an easy life (actually, quite the contrary). God has called us to be set apart, a people chosen to reflect the essence of HaShem. We are to be holy, as God is holy. That is what the Torah is all about.
So what is our obligation? Each one of us today is bound to that same covenant to HaShem. We have the same obligation to stand before God and continually renew our covenantal commitment. For according to Deuteronomy 30:20 – “that is the purpose of our lives.”
As we approach the High Holidays this year, may each one of us take the Torah’s call to action seriously. May we renew our relationships to HaShem, commit to follow in His ways, observe His mitzvot, and carry forth the message of Mashiach!
L’Shana Tova Tikateivu – May you be inscribed for a sweet new year!