Mordechai Silverstein

Standing Together

Parshat Nitzavim follows immediately after the presentation of the curses destined to come upon those who transgress God’s covenant. In it, Moshe calls upon all of the people to reassert their commitment to God and His covenant: “You are standing here today, all of you, (atem nitzavim hayom kulkhem) before the Lord your God, your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your overseers, every man of Israel. Your little ones, your wives, and your sojourner who is in the midst of your camps, from the hewer of wood to the drawer of your water, for you to pass into the Covenant of the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 29:9)

The juxtaposition of this episode with the previous parasha and the first four words of this verse provide the following midrash with the associative inspiration for its message:

Just as the day (hayom) sometimes brings light and sometimes brings darkness, so too, you, when it is dark for you, in the future there will be eternal light. When? When all of you stand bound together as one, as it says: ‘all of you are alive today’ (Deuteronomy 4:4) It is the way of the world, if a person takes a bundle of reeds, he won’t be able to break them all at one time, but if he takes them one by one, even a young child can break them. And so, you find that Israel will not be redeemed until they bundle themselves as one, as it says, ‘In those days and at that time, declared the Lord, the people of Israel together with the people of Judah shall come…’ (Jeremiah 50 :4) – When they come bundled together, they will receive the Presence of God (the Shekhinah). (Tanhuma Nitzavim 1)

This midrash recognizes (perhaps inspired by the curses noted above), that the life, both of individuals and of the nation, will have highs and lows, exigencies and triumphs. As individuals, it is likely that it will be hard to face down troubles, but standing together, supporting each other, it will be possible to triumph and not faulter.

This is as true for nations as it is for individuals. It is important to recognize that it is sometimes necessary to get over differences and to stand together if we are to conquer life’s vicissitudes. In a world where nations are broken and seem incapable of coming together to find commonality, no message could be more pertinent than this.

About the Author
Mordechai Silverstein is a teacher of Torah who has lived in Jerusalem for over 30 years. He specializes in helping people build personalized Torah study programs.
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