In this week’s Torah portion, our ancestors stand as a united assembly ready to receive the final words of Moses. As Moses looks out over the thousands of people gathered in front of him, he realizes that a generation has passed since the Torah was first received. The people who are assembled before him were merely children at Sinai. Now, they have children of their own. Now, it is time to renew the covenant with them.
In his address to this new generation of Israelites, Moses begins with a very interesting word choice for the concept of an assembly. He says “Attem nitzaveem” “You stand here. . .”
The Hebrew word “Nitzavim” is significant in that it is not the usual word used for standing. It is a word that is used when taking a stance for a definite purpose—taking one’s place in anticipation of something. It refers to standing still and not moving.
Certainly, there are moments in life when we can only stand still and take it all in. Consider standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon or standing in the presence of a newborn child. At such moments, we stand in awe. At such moments, the universe invites us to pause in humility.
This was the intent of Moses in his opening words to our ancestors. He invites them to stand humble and still in anticipation of a Divine encounter. This kind of humble stillness is what we try to achieve during this High Holy Day Season as well.
In the days ahead, we need to pause. We need to set aside time. We need to stand still and break away from our normal routine—in order to maximize the power that these days offer. When we make that extra effort to break from our daily routines and set aside a full day which is separate and different from the rest of the week and the rest of the year, the kind of standing which is implied by our Torah portion this week (Nitzavim) can truly be appreciated.
Shanah Tovah — Steve