Deuteronomy 29:9 – 31:30
We are counting down. This is the last Shabbat and the last Torah portion of 5770. We read this double portion Nitzavim-Vayelech as the year draw to a close. We are reminded in these closing verses of the book of Deuteronomy that we can turn away from our sins and return to God. We are reminded even as Moses will soon be gone that God knows that the Children of Israel will stray from the covenant. It is almost as if God expects it. Verse 20 of Chapter 31 says:
When I bring them to the land which I have sworn to their forefathers [to give them], a land flowing with milk and honey, they will eat and be satisfied, and live on the fat [of the land]. Then, they will turn to other deities and serve them, provoking Me and violating My covenant.
This verse clearly knows our humanity. We err. We will go astray. And God recognizes this. The question is will we recognize it? Can we recognize those moments and monitor ourselves? That will be the challenge for the Israelite nation as they prepare to enter the Promised Land without their leader, Moses. And this will be the challenge for us as we enter a New Year.
We are in the final throes of the call to repentance, the call to teshuvah: Turning our lives over. In these closing days of the year, our spiritual discipline is to examine and look within and change our path towards the good, towards blessing and toward hope. Deuteronomy 30:8 teaches us this very message:
And you will return and listen to the voice of Adonai, and fulfill all God’s commandments, which I command you this day.
Like a parent who knows that their children will make mistakes, God understands that we make mistakes. Sometimes very serious errors, ones with serious lapses of judgment. But so too like a parent’s endless love and devotion, God also knows our potential for repentance and renewal. This is the time of return. This is the time of teshuvah. As Deuteronomy 30:9-10 tells us:
For Adonai will once again rejoice over you for good, as God rejoiced over your ancestors, when you obey Adonai, your God, to observe God’s commandments and God’s statutes written in this Torah scroll, [and] when you return to Adonai, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul
It is that simple. Love God, do right, make teshuvah, and God will rejoice over you and bless you. For you will have blessed yourself with clarity, wholeness and peace.
Happy New Year.