Welcome to Nitzavim /You Are Standing, this week's Torah portion.
NITZAVIM /You Are Standing
Deuteronomy 29:9 (10)–30:20;
“You are standing [nitzavim] today in the presence of YAHUVEH your ELOHIM …. You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with YAHUVEH your ELOHIM.” (Deuteronomy 29:10–12)
Last week, Parasha Ki Tavo (When You Enter) concluded with Moses telling the people that 40 years after they had attained nationhood, they still had not acquired “a heart to know, eyes to see and ears to hear” all that YAHUVEH had done for them throughout their wilderness journey. (Deuteronomy 29:2–4)
In this week's portion, YAHUVEH confronts the people to choose now His way of life and blessings or the pagan way of death and curses.
Free to Choose Good
In Parasha Nitzavim, YAHUVEH sets before the Jewish People two diametrically opposed choices: life and good, or death and evil
(et ha'chayim v'e ha'tov; v'e hamavet v'e hara).
Just as a good father might instruct his son or daughter as to the best decision to make, YAHUVEH implores His children to choose life.
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)
This verse provides an incredible insight into the purpose of the Torah.
YAHUVEH gave the Scriptures to us as a guide so we know what is good and what is evil; nevertheless, it is up to each of us to either live according to YAHUVEH’s Word by accepting the good and rejecting the evil or to live according to the dictates of our own heart and the current cultural perspective or worldview.
This is the concept of free will that YAHUVEH has given to mankind.
Free to Choose Life in Adversity
While it is not possible to control all the circumstances that affect our lives, we can determine how we will react to them.
It might be easier to be happy or be nice when everything is going well, but there is no guarantee that we will be happy or nice even in the midst of good times.
Likewise, tragic circumstances do not have to shake us from our firm foundation so that we lose faith in YAHUVEH and become miserable and bitter.
Job was able to say, 'He gives and He takes away. Baruch Hashem,' after losing his health, his children and his livelihood." (Job 1:21)
Even under extreme physical and emotional stress, we can choose our behavior — whether to love and forgive — or remain in hatred and bitterness.
Most of us will never have to endure such brutal conditions, but each one of us will be presented with choices throughout our lives.
We must choose whether or not to be courageous, unselfish and faithful; or bow to fear, fight for our own way, and lose our human dignity, especially during serious adversity.
The truth is that we always have the ability to walk in accordance with the values of the Torah or to walk along that broad path that leads to destruction.
We would do well to consider carefully our ways as we prepare to enter into the Days of Awe this weekend.
Free to Return to YAHUVEH
the ten-day period called Days of Awe (Yamim Nora’im) that ushers in Rosh HaShanah (the Jewish calendar New Year 5780) and ends with Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).
These ten days are meant to be a period of somber introspection during which time we pray for forgiveness of our sins — and ask for forgiveness from those we have sinned against throughout the year.
The repentance required at the time of these upcoming Fall Feasts of YAHUVEH is meant to bring each person back to ELOHIM.
In YAHUSHUA'S day, people came to Yochanan /John the Baptist at the Jordan River during this season of preparation for the Fall Feasts, to be immersed in the mikvah /baptized. There, he warned them that they must produce fruit demonstrating their repentance.
“John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.’” (Luke 3:7–8)
The Hebrew word for repentance, t’shuvah, comes from the root shuv, meaning return.
In other words, when we choose the path of sin, evil and death, it leads us out of the presence of YAHUVEH. And when we repent, we return to the presence of YAHUVEH.
We learn in this Parasha, that the result of unrepented sin for the Israelites would be even more than personal separation — it would also be national exile.
But Baruch YAHUVEH, exile is not the end of the story.
In this Parasha, YAHUVEH tells the Israelites that those who will be scattered into exile due to sin, would be gathered back to the Promised Land when they returned to Him. And after He gathers and returns them to their own land, He would bless and prosper His people Israel.
“When you and your children return to YAHUVEH your ELOHIM and obey Him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then YAHUVEH your ELOHIM will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where He scattered you.” (Deuteronomy 30:2–3)
Still, today many believe that it is just too hard to obey YAHUVEH or keep the Torah.
In this Parasha, YAHUVEH tell us that it is not too difficult for us to walk in obedience:
“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.... The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.” (Deuteronomy 30:11–14)
Moreover, there are many rewards for being obedient.
These rewards are not relegated to olam habah /the world to come but are also for our lives here and now.
They are not only spiritual rewards for when we get to Heaven; they are also physical, material, and emotional rewards such as long life, prosperity, and success for today.
Yet, evil persists, and we know that even the obedient ones fall prey at times to the oppression and attacks of the enemy and to a world that is fallen. YAHUSHUA even said that “in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
Those who have troubles do not have to succumb to fear.
Scripture tells us that the enemy cannot take away from us many good things: our freedom to choose good; our faith in YAHUVEH of Israel; and our faith in YAHUSHUA as our Messiah, who sacrificed His own life to release us from spiritual bondage so we can be truly experience freedom in this life.
No matter how bleak things look at any given moment, YAHUVEH will show us evidence of His goodness and mercy while we are yet on this earth.
As King David said, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of YAHUVEH in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)
Choosing life entails loving YAHUVEH with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, listening to the voice of RUACH HAKODESH /Holy Spirit and keeping His commandments. Doing so is the very best choice we could ever make — for this is our very life!
“Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love YAHUVEH your ELOHIM, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For YAHUVEH is your life, and He will give you many years in the land He swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Shabbat Shalom from Torah Keeper!