Nitzavim /You Are Standing
This parsha begins with such a strong declaration from God: ‘All of you stand today before the Lord your God: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel, 11 your little ones and your wives—also the stranger who is in your camp, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water— 12 that you may enter into covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath, which the Lord your God makes with you today, 13 that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’
Just in this first paragraph we are told that we are standing before the Almighty, that we are to enter into His covenant, into His oath, that He will establish us as He has spoken, and that He will be our God.
Who could or would deny that? In fact in synagogues around the world, there is a sign that is hung above the bema which states ‘Know this day before whom you stand.’
If we kept that simple yet profound statement in the forefront of our every thought, would we behave differently towards God and His will?
Nitzavim ends in Deuteronomy 39 with the choice of life or death and God telling His people that His commandments are not far off, nor unattainable and that His word is very near, that it is, in fact, in our speech and in our hearts.
God tells us that life and good, death and evil are before us. If we choose to love Him and walk in His ways, we will live and be blessed, but if we turn away so that we no longer hear him, we will perish.
God again reveals that heaven (spirit) and earth (flesh) are witnesses; setting life and death, blessing and cursing before us; therefore, choose life. We are to obey and told again to hear His voice and cling to Him, so that we will dwell in the land sworn to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Deuteronomy 29:29 states: ‘The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.’
One of the commentaries on this comes from Rashi: “The hidden things belong to the Lord, our God: Now, you might object [to God, saying]: “But what can we do? You punish the entire community because of the sinful thoughts of an individual, as Scripture says, ‘Perhaps there is among you a man…’ (verse 17 above), and after this, Scripture continues, ‘Seeing the plagues of that land [and the diseases with which the Lord struck it]’ (verse 21) [which seems to indicate that for the sinful thought of even one individual, the whole land would be struck down with plagues and diseases]. But surely no man can know the secret thoughts of his fellow [that we could somehow prevent this collective punishment!” In answer to this, God says:] “I will not punish you for the hidden things!” [I.e.,] because “[The hidden things] belong to the Lord, our God,” and He will exact punishment upon that particular individual [who sins in secret]. However, “the revealed things apply to us and to our children” [that is, we are responsible for detecting the sins committed openly in our community, and] to eradicate any evil among us. And if we do not execute judgment upon these [open transgressions, over which we do have control,], then the whole community will be punished [because they would be remiss in their responsibility]. There is a dot placed over [each letter of] the words לָנוּ וּלְבָנֵינוּ here, to teach us homiletically that even for open sins [which were not brought to judgment, God] did not punish the whole community-until Israel crossed the Jordan. For then, they accepted upon themselves the oath at Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, and thereby [formally] became responsible for one another (Sanh. 43b). [When dots are placed over letters of the Torah, this denotes an exclusion of some sort. In our context, our Rabbis teach us that the exclusion refers to the period prior to the crossing of the Jordan.]”
This can remez to:
Luke 12:1-3 ‘In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.’
Proverbs 25:2 ‘It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.’
Amos gives a warning in Amos 3:7-8 ‘Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. 8 A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?’
Romans 16:25-27 speaks of our faith and obedience regarding the mysteries of God and Messiah. ‘Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Yeshua Messiah acording to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began 26 but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith— 27 to God, alone wise, be glory through Yeshua Messiah forever. Amen.’
However, there is another matter when it speaks of the mysteries and secrets of God, and that is the Messiah, His glory and His coming.
The prophet Jeremiah states in Jeremiah 33:1-3 ‘Moreover the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the prison, saying, 2 “Thus says the Lord who made it, the Lord who formed it to establish it (the Lord is His name): 3 ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’
Daniel 2:22 ‘“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with Him.’ He said in Daniel 12:9, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time.’
Revelation 5:3 ‘And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it.’
In 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 Rabbi Shaul quotes the Torah when he speaks of the wisdom of God being a mystery, the hidden wisdom of God, and what is revealed to man.
Ephesians 1:9 ‘He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.’
Rabbi Shaul continues speaking of the mysteries in Ephesians 3: the mystery revealed, the purpose of the mystery and the mystery appreciated in Colossians 1:26
Mark 13:32 ‘But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.’
Nitzavim / You Are Standing
Nitzavim opens with the people standing before Adonai and entering into His covenant in order that He may establish them as a people to Himself. Nitzavim is about choosing life and the consequences of choosing God or defying Him – thus establishing one’s own god rather that the God of Israel.
In Deuteronomy 29:12 there is a Hebrew word brit v’alah, meaning a covenant guarded by imprecations (a spoken curse). This is not a curse towards those in Torah, but rather those who turn away from the teachings and instructions of Adonai.
Deuteronomy 29:14-19 ‘I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, 15 but with him who stands here with us today before the Lord our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today 16 (for you know that we dwelt in the land of Egypt and that we came through the nations which you passed by, 17 and you saw their abominations and their idols which were among them—wood and stone and silver and gold); 18 so that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood; 19 and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’—as though the drunkard could be included with the sober.’
Chapter 29 continues with a warning about bitterness. Bitterness is equated with a heart turning away from God. Deuteronomy 29:18 ‘…so that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood…’
The definition regarding bitterness and food is equal to bitterness in our life: ‘sharpness of taste, lack of sweetness, sourness.’ Bitterness can be defined as a chronic and pervasive state of smoldering resentment and is regarded as one of the most destructive and toxic of human emotions. Bitterness creates ‘the victim’ with all the implications of helplessness and offensiveness embedded in the defeatist label. But why is bitterness the end result of serving other gods, and who in Deuteronomy 29:18 starts the sickness of bitterness? The sages teach that this verse refers to someone who produces and increases evil.
Hebrews 12:14-17 repeats this analogy, ‘Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.’
Isaiah 5:12 ‘Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!’
Job 21:25 tell us that we die without any sweetness; ‘While another dies with a bitter soul, never even tasting anything good.’
Revelation 8 speaks of the seven angels with the seven trumpets. In Revelation 8:10-11 tells us that men die from the bitterness in the water: ‘The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.’
Proverbs 5 speaks about the metaphor of the harlot who entices us away from the Torah.
Proverbs 5:1-4 ‘My son, pay attention to my wisdom; lend your ear to my understanding,
2 That you may preserve discretion, and your lips may keep knowledge. 3 For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil; 4 but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword.’
When we as a people of God stray or completely turn away from Adonai and His Word, our heart closes. The Torah is not longer in our hearts, but rather our hearts serve our own egos. Bitterness may not appear instantaneously, but it is there festering. Eventually the servanthood of oneself becomes weary and very disappointing.
Deuteronomy 29:19 continues ‘and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’—as though the drunkard could be included with the sober.’
“That he will bless himself in his heart” -he will imagine a blessing of peace for himself, thus lofting himself, his ideology and his gods above the God of Israel. He says to himself, “these curses will not come upon me.” This is an allusion and self destruction.
Deuteronomy 29 ends with the declaration that we don’t know all there is to know. ‘The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.’ Deuteronomy 29:29.
Nitzavim ends with a stark realization of life with Adonai and His Torah and life without. Deuteronomy 30:15-20 ‘See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.’
We stand before Adonai – that we may enter into the Covenant – then we are established as a people of God – and we will dwell in the land which is our inheritance – as we came through the nations – now we follow His Torah – we choose life!
Da Lifnei mi atah Omed Know Before Whom You Stand
Nitzavim / You Are Standing
HafTorah Portion Isaiah 61:10-63:9
Brit Chadasha Romans 7:7-12
This parsha opens with Moses renewing the covenant; ‘All of you stand today before the Lord your God: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel, 11 your little ones and your wives—also the stranger who is in your camp, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water— 12 that you may enter into covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath, which the Lord your God makes with you today, 13 that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 14 “I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, 15 but with him who stands here with us today before the Lord our God…’ Deuteronomy 29:10-15.
This was the first time that the covenant was renewed, but not the last. It happened again at the end of Joshua’s life in Joshua 24 when the Covenant was renewed at Shechem, and later in the days of Jehoiada in 2 Kings 11:17, Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 29 and Josiah in 1 Kings 23:1-3. During the Babylonian exile, Ezra and Nehemiah called for a national gathering to renew the covenant in Nehemiah 8. And of course, the Brit Chadasha. But it happened first in Nitzavim / You Are Standing.
Why did Moses do this? Because he realized the seriousness of change that was about to come to the Israelites. The history of the Israelites was about to change from Divine Initiative to now human initiative. This is what Moses was preparing the Israelites for in the last month of his life. It is as if he had said: Until now God has led – in a pillar of cloud and fire – and you have followed. Now God is handing over the responsibility to you – do not forget. From here on, you must lead. If your hearts are with Him, He will be with you. This is why the command: “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today…” Deuteronomy 8:11.
When we veer away from God’s instructions, we slowly forget. It’s absolutely true. We will start to forget the Friday night candle lighting, a small thing, but a Divine reminder to our flesh that the Shabbat begins at sundown. We will forget the Torah of Kashrut, and slip back into eating pork as we take a bite of the bacon wrapped jalapeno popper at the office party. The fall High Holy Days will come and go, as we are busy with fall. Soon, Pesach is but a distant memory. We will slowly but surely slip away.
That was what Moses was trying to convey during the last month of his life, in that long series of instructions that make up the book of Devarim.
How important is a covenant? In Deuteronomy 29:12 there is a Hebrew word, v’alah brit v‘alah or more literally a covenant guarded by imprecations.’ The word alah can be translated as curse, oath or imprecation. This alludes to curses in Deuteronomy chapter 28. ‘That you may enter into covenant and into His oath….’ This absolutely does not translate or refer to those that are in covenant with Elohim are cursed. Teshuva El, return to God and v’shavta ad means to turn around and towards that which we left.
Curse is the consequence of our choice of transgressions of ignoring God’s covenant. 1 Kings 2:3 states: ‘That you may prosper in all that you do and whenever you turn.’ When we walk in His ways and abide in His covenants, we are turning toward Him and we are blessed through Him. Living in His Covenant is a choice, of course.
However, we are commanded to choose life, even though the choice is ultimately ours, we are commanded in Deuteronomy 30:19-20: ‘ I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
This command is prefaced with: ‘…that the command is not too mysterious, it is not floating in the heavens nor is it beyond the sea….’ (Deuteronomy 30:11). So rather God has set before them/us life and good, death and evil, so keep His commandments that we may live.
Deuteronomy 30:14 states that His Word is near to us. If something is near to us, then wouldn’t we, shouldn’t we realize that it must have been important to Him to keep us near to Him.
In Deuteronomy 31:8 God states: “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
There is a tie between His Covenant and His promise:
Psalm 103:17-18 ‘But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him,
and His righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.’
Isaiah 54:10 ‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor My covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.’
Psalm 105:11 ‘He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations, The covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac. Then He confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant…’
1 Kings 8:23 ‘He said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing lovingkindness to Your servants who walk before You with all their heart…’
Judges 2:1 ‘Now the angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you…’
Psalm 89:34 ‘My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips.’
The covenant that God made with His people represents life. We start the walk and progress further into His Ways.
1 Corinthians 15:58 ‘Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.’
Philippians 1:9 ‘And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.’
2 Timothy 1:7 ‘For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
1 Thessalonians 3:12 ‘And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you…’
Psalm 90:12 ‘So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.’
James 1:22 ‘But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.’
So, are you in covenant with The Creator of the Universe? Are you walking in His Ways? Have you chosen life?