This week we read Nitzavim, a short Sedra which always precedes Rosh Hashanah. The word Nitzavim translates as “those who stand”.
When our flight is called at the airport, when we gather to disembark from a ship, when the bus or train stops that is what we do, we stand. For the most part we have decided our journey and know where we are going. But this time it is different; God has been with us, but we now have to make our own choices, we have free will.
This day, I call upon the heaven and the earth as witnesses; 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;
It is not with you alone that I am making this sworn covenant, but with whoever is standing here with us today before the Lord our God, and with whoever is not here with us today.
These are serious choices. They will affect not just us but our families and all our descendants. With the exception of converts we did not choose to be Jews. Rabbi Isaac Arama in 15th century Spain, at a time when there was an existential threat to our lives, posed the same question. But we are also told:
This commandment which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfil it!
So how do we respond? In the daily Shema we say:
וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת ה' אֱלהֶיךָ בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל מְאדֶךָ
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might
וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם
And you shall teach them to your children, and you shall speak of them
It is that simple.