We always read Parshat Nitzavim on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This short double Torah portion echoes the themes of this season. If we return in repentance, teshuvah to God, then God will open our hearts and embrace us. In Jewish tradition God is the Force in the Universe that connects all life. How amazing that all it takes is a small move on our part! It does take our free will, an effort in the direction of the Holy One, but according to Jewish tradition the Holy One of Blessing will more than meet us half way. We can return any time. We can come home! Fortunately the Jewish New Year will also begin and we can press delete on any behaviors, actions, or deeds that cause transgression, hurt or sin or our own sense of perceived distance. We can begin again. It only takes a contrite heart and a sincere approach to a renewed way of being. Are you ready to begin? Can we welcome you home to your people?
The distance between ourselves and God is created by our errors and transgression. The alienation from all that is holy comes from the disconnect between what we do and our ideals. It isn’t always easy to live them. The gap in between is the distance that grows in us. The ancient High Holy Day rituals of sacrifice were designed to draw us close again to the Holy. In fact the word for sacrifice, Korban, comes from the word-Karov—draw near.
The Holy Days of Repentance help us draw near to God and our covenant again. I think that is why so many of our fellow Jews who we don’t see at any other time of the year make their annual pilgrimage to the synagogue. They seek to draw near to God and Torah and our eternal covenant. And we like God are ready to embrace and welcome them again.
In Nitzavim we are reminded that the covenant that God made with the Jewish people is made with everyone in the Jewish people. Even with those who have transgressed. Not only with tribal elders. The covenant of the Jewish people is made with everyone, men and women and children. It is not made with an elite class of priests or just the wealthy. The covenant of Israel is made with the entire people. And most importantly not only with those who stood at Mt. Sinai but with their descendants and ours. This eternal covenant of the Jewish people applies to all who are a part of the Jewish people. We can try and evade our responsibilities, avoid our inheritance but we will be called by tradition at some point for a reckoning of our values and our actions. This time of year, our Season of renewal calls out to us to think about the ways we walk in the world.
That is why Moses reminds us this week that Torah is not found in Heaven but close by. We can use our Jewish teachings to help us in the process of this evaluation and reflection and drawing near to our core values again and drawing near to God. Use this time and this season to draw near to our covenant, to our God and to our People again.
I hope to see you and yours during this holy day season and wish you in person a Shanah Tovah umetukah: A sweet and happy New Year and New You!