Nitzavim, Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30
In Moses’ final oration, found in Nitzavim, he closes ranks by opening possibilities.
The covenant is not only made with those standing there that day, but, it is implied, with future generations as well. It is not limited to one age, or gender or profession. The covenant is not so far that it is inaccessible, that one would need to cross the seas or travel to the heavens to get it.
I am proud that parts of this portion have become the Yom Kippur Torah reading in the Reform community. The message is one of inclusion. My community will read this portion and then, only a few weeks later, read it again. Its message is one that needs to be repeated so that it is internalized.
Between these two readings, we observe Selichot, the penitential prayers that prepare us for the 10 days of repentance. The text woven through is from Lamentations: “Return us unto you, God, that we may return. Renew our days as in the past.”
Renewing our days as in the past is not looking through rose-colored glasses to a time when… [you fill in the blank]. Renewing our days as in the past is allowing ourselves to cull what was good back then and strive for it in our modern reality. We do want to again experience the togetherness of standing at Sinai shoulder to shoulder, woodchopper to tribal chief, man and woman and child, to enter into the covenant. We do want be refreshed so that each day is hayom, this day, a new beginning.
The Pittsburgh Jewish community is working collaboratively on so many projects. I am proud to say that one is in my neighborhood. The Jewish organizations in the Eastern Suburbs are working toward building a sense of community — work whose investment and pay off is in mutual respect and collaboration. May our community continue to go from strength to strength and may the New Year be one of renewal for all of us.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)