Parashat Nitzavim-Va’yelech: Deuteronomy 29:9 to 31:30

Selichot Shabbat September 8, 2023

This Shabbat, proceeding Rosh Hashanah, includes two Torah portions for our reading. “Nitzavim,” is a verb meaning “standing,” i.e. “you are standing this day before the Lord your God….”  From the same verbal root we find the word “matzeva” which means a free-standing stone pillar, a monument (which we find in every cemetery).

Nitzavim reminds us that every generation has stood at Mt. Sinai and heard the words of the Eternal. We are bound to this covenant at Sinai, no matter how far we have strayed, or forgotten our path as Jews. We will read this magnificent paragraph again on Yom Kippur morning, during our holy day services. Marvelous prose describes the nature of the covenant, that is eminently understandable, and that it must be freely accepted because we are free moral agents.

“Va-yelech,” the opening word in chapter 31, which contains the entire Torah reading, is a form of the verb “h-l-ch,” meaning “to walk or go.” Thus ‘Moses went and told the Israelites…’ This one chapter Torah portion is a narrative of Moses choosing and consecrating his trusted assistant, Joshua, to succeed him after his death.

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