Nitzavim – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

As we approach Rosh Hashanah next week it is this Sedra, Nitzavim that we always read. Only 40 verses long it is looked upon as describing Moses’ last day as he was preparing to leave. It deals with the fundamental issue of free will and choice.

In the Torah scroll there are unusual dots over the words lanu ul’vaneinu (“for us and our children”) and over the first ayin in ad-olam (“forever”) in verse 28 of Chapter 29. Ezra the Scribe could not explain this and thought that the meaning behind the dots would only be revealed by Elijah and they possibly should not be in the Torah text!

The tone has changed. Moses is seen as going to the people individually, not to preach but to teach. It is for men and women, leaders and humble workers and it includes converts. It is not a religious harangue but a reminder. The covenant is to be

With those standing here with us today before the Lord, our God, and also with those who are not here with us, this day

When we recite the Ashamnu and Al Chait prayers we openly confess our sins in both our public and our private lives. Here we read

The hidden things belong to the Lord, our God, but the revealed things apply to us and to our children forever

Concealed acts may be between us and God but they have consequences for others. How we choose to behave affects us all, both now and in the future.

The way in which we approach the covenant would be a matter of choice but choice has consequences. Is it more important to be seen to act as a Jew or to think as a Jew?

That choice, which is famously set out at the end of the Sedra, is remarkably simple

For this commandment which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away
I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live
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