The parsha of Nitzavim is always read on the shabbat before Rosh Hashana because it deals with teshuva, repentance, and turning back to Hashem. It begins with the words: “You are standing this day, all of you, before Hashem, your G-d, your leaders, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, all the men of Israel. Your little ones, your wives, your stranger that is in your camp, from the cutter of your wood to the drawer of your water.” Devarim 29:9-10. These words show that every person is important to Hashem.
This short parshah includes some of the most fundamental principles of Jewish faith:
The unity of Israel:
’You stand today, all of you, before the L‑rd your G‑d: your leaders, your elders, your officers, every Israelite person even the stranger at your gate; from your wood-hewer to your water-drawer’. All were included and not only those who lived contemporaneously, but also the generations to come. (29:9-15).
This week's Sidra begins with Moses’ declaration that the Israelites were standing ready in front of the Lord in order to make another covenant with him. This covenant was made in the Land of Moab and it was a renewal of the covenant that had originally been made in Mount Chorev, another name for Mount Sinai. Together with the covenant, Moses also expressed a very solemn oath, cursing anyone who would transgress that covenant.
This week’s sidrah begins with the words ‘you are standing here today’. The end of Moshe’s life was drawing near and he was passing the mantle of leadership along to Joshua. In his final speech, he wants the Children of Israel to pay attention to his words and orders them to stand, whilst he speaks, rather than sit. Why does standing still imply a greater degree of listening, rather than sitting?