I often find myself curious about what Torah on any given topic has been shared on YouTube. So, I typed “Nitzavim” into the search bar, and. as expected, I discovered a multitude of wonderful spiritual voices out there. However, thanks to YouTube’s algorithms, I eventually stumbled upon my own voice, from 11 months ago, during the previous cycle of Parashat Nitzavim. This discovery ignited a powerful revelation about the significance of a single day—a revelation I wish to share with you today.
On Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the world, there is a poignant moment at the end of both mornings’ Musaf services, a prayer/poem called “Hayom/Today,” associated with various melodies. It never fails to move me, especially when I sing it for the first time each year. The prayer implores God to strengthen us, to bless us, to raise us up – today. But, as I stand before the open ark, pouring out my soul to My Creator, I feel so many days and years pour though me. The words rise in the air with new facets of sacred meaning, naming the deepest, most human prayers that exist: May we find the courage to be our true selves, may we be blessed to grow, may we occupy our full sizes in the world. As we show up as community, there is harmony, a glimmer of renewed power, and often, tears.
The essence of Rosh Hashanah, the rebirth-day of the universe, lies in a radical claim made by Judaism at the very beginning of the Torah. It asserts that God’s utmost concern transcends any one tribe or family—it encompasses all of existence. The Torah could have started by pointing to one tribe as the center of Gods care, but instead begins with the universe itself, which suggests that God cares for every blade of grass, every human being, every animal, every heart. The sheer enormity of this concept often moves me to tears when I lead this prayer. It boils down to a simple truth: What do we need most? Courage. What do we need? Life. Every human being, images of God each and every one, deserves nothing less.
The timing of this week’s Torah portion Nitzavim with the week leading into Rosh Hashanah is incredibly powerful, as it marks the final day of Moses’s life. Moses, our great teacher, stands before us all, fully aware that this is his last day on Earth. In the opening verses of this week’s Parsha, he repeatedly emphasizes the word “Hayom/today.” Five times in just six verses, his use of the word Hayom calls to us, “My children, don’t miss today.”
How can we not be moved by Moses’s unwavering commitment to impart this message on his last day? His words resonate deeply, urging us to be present in the here and now, to embrace today with all its possibilities.
The days leading up to Rosh Hashanah are intense. They serve as invitations to live holy lives, to cherish and celebrate life, which is our most fundamental need. As we stand on the threshold of a new year, let us fervently commit for life, to exercise the strength it requires to truly acknowledge what we deserve and need, and to summon the courage to ask for it.
Don’t wait until tomorrow to call out for these blessings. Today is the day, and we must seize it with open hearts and unshakable determination. May we be filled with courage and with blessing. May we occupy our full space in the world.
Today is our day -your day. May it be extraordinary.