John Oliver Mason

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Nitzavim-Vayelech

Posted by John Mason on August 31, 2013 at 4:35 PM

I have been reading the Torah portion Nitzavim-Vayelech, Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30. Moses speaks to the israelites saying, "You stand this day, all of you, before the LORD your God, your tribal heads, your elders, and your officials, all the men of Israel, your chidren, your wives, even the stranger within your camp...to enter into the covenant of the LORD your God...I make this covenant, with its sanctions, nowt with you alone, but both with the thoe who and standing here with us this day before the LORD your God and with those who are not with us here this day." (29:9-14)

I gather two things from this passage: the Torah, the Teaching, the Covenant, is for all the people, all classes, from the tribal leaders to the rank and file, including non-Israelites in the community; the Teachings with its blessing and punishments, is binding on all in the community. Also, the Covenant-Teaching is binding not only on the people listening at that time,but also for future generations.

29:15-28-God, through Moses, recounts how the Israelites passed through among various nations with their own gods they worship. God knows the Israelites are plotting to follow these foreign deities, and God threatens the israelites with terrible punishments if they turn from God and God's commandments.

30:1-10-The LORD promises His people that if they turn from their sin and towards God, God with accept them back in love, and God will punish Israel's enemies and oppressors and restore ISrael's prosperity.

30:11-14-The LORD says the Torah-Teaching is not beyond the comprehention of people: "It is not in the heavens, that you should say, 'Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it' NO the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it." Lay people as well as clergy can comprehend and read Torah, it is for everyone.

Reading this portion is appropriate just before the High Holy Days. The portion tells of the danger of turning from God, but the benefits of t'shuva, returning, which you can always do.

For further study of Rosh haShona and the other Jewish holidays, I recommend Seasons Of Our Joy by Arthur Waskow.     

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