This plea from G-d proceeded President Rivlin’s by over 3000 years. It’s part of a covenant that the Jewish People entered into with G-d before they ever stepped foot in the land of Israel.
Here is a crucial condition for the fulfillment of that covenant:
“The final ingathering of the Jewish People cannot be achieved until we are united in one party.”
According to Midrash Tanchuma this parsha is about the Jews trying to make sense of Jewish history even before it unfolded. They just heard a description of a holocaust-like episode (the “curses” of last week’s Parsha – Ki Tavo) and they were wondering what this all means.
Moses comforted them by letting them know that one day they would be the only nation in the world to return to their homeland after being exiled. And the only nation to revive their language after it was not widely spoken in 2,000 years. This nation would experience an ingathering so extraordinary that it would be an inspiration for some Jews and for many Evangelical Christians. It would draw in Jews from 97 countries and counting. (Moses obviously did not say it in these words). And the Jewish People, after experiencing national traumas on a scale unimagined in human history (although spelled out quite graphically in the Torah) would come back from the dead and once again regain their pride. Hence the name of the Parsha, “Nitzavim” – standing tall. Standing together.
Here are the rough contours of that covenant according to Midrash Tanchuma:
I G-d, hereafter known as “The Party of the First” and “The Jewish People and all those destined to be part of the Jewish People until the end of time, hereafter known as “The Party of the second,” have mutually agreed to enter into a contract. In doing so, G-d, grants the Jewish People immortality.
Meaning, no matter what hardships or horrors we bring upon ourselves due to our moral failings, we will always regain our stature. In fact, each setback will make us stronger and provide greater moral clarity because of our collective and individual experiences. The Jewish People will never join the so-called “Ash heap of history” that claimed such mighty empires as Rome, Babylonia, Assyria, and nations whose names we can barely pronounce like Olmec, Anasazi, Aksumite, Etruscans, Nabataeans, and Haumakas, among many others.
II One of the most critical foundations that define us as a nation is our collective adherence to the principle of “Areivim” – the awareness that we are spiritually and physically responsible for one another. Guarantors for each other. That includes everyone. Religious, anti-religious and everyone in between. This is why the final in-gathering and redemption can only come about when we form an “Agudah Achat” one unified party and we are “Nitzavim” -standing together as one.
III Although the Jewish People will most certainly break this covenant over and over again, and even try to formally annul it (as they did in the days of the Prophet Ezekiel), G-d will never abrogate it.
IV At the end of days, G-d will plant an idea into the minds of our enemies to fight one another and they will destroy each other.
For the Jews about to enter the Promised Land, it was a comforting thought that no matter where they ended up, they could access the Torah’s divine, moral teachings which provided a sense of “Nitzavim” standing tall, especially during times of adversity.
All the more so for us who can tap into our People’s greatest spiritual and intellectual giants throughout the millennia.
3,000 years later, against all odds, we are still here. G-d indeed kept up his end of the covenant. We are back in our ancient homeland. As far as keeping up our end of the covenant, let’s just say we are a work in progress.
Moses’s rallying cry of 3,000 years ago is as relevant as ever.
Instead of standing apart or standing in judgement, let us stand tall.
Let us stand together.