Israel Will Always SurviveSeptember 19, 2022 - 12:00 am
All of you are standing today in the presence of the LORD your God—your leaders and chief men, your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel… —Deuteronomy 29:10
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Nitzavim, which means “standing,” from Deuteronomy 29:9–30:20.
To say that Jewish history is unique would be a great understatement. As a Jew, born in America and now raising my own family in Israel, our ancient homeland, I have to pinch myself. Sometimes, I’ll be walking down the street in Jerusalem amidst crowds of Jews from all over the world, happy and enjoying themselves, and I feel overwhelmed.
I think about how these streets looked not so long ago, when the Jordanians controlled the Old City and downtown Jerusalem was on the border. Or I’ll think about the extreme poverty that the small and beleaguered Jewish community lived with in the early part of the 20th century. And then I open my eyes again and look around me. Is this real?
Or I think about the Holocaust, the lowest point in our people’s history, when we came the closest we ever have to complete destruction. Imagine how the survivors felt when only three years after the end of World War II, the State of Israel came into existence!
It’s true that Jewish history is filled with suffering and persecution. But we also know that God’s love for us is eternal.
Israel Will Always Stand
We see this in the opening words of this week’s Torah portion, as we read, “All of you are standing today in the presence of the LORD your God—your leaders and chief men, your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel.”
The word for standing here is nitzavim, rather than the more common omedim. The difference is that while omedim means simply “standing,” nitzavim means “standing firmly” or “standing permanently.” For example, a permanent monument is called a matzeva from the same Hebrew root.
Why did Moses use this word? Why didn’t he just say, “You are all here today”?
Right before this verse we read a long description of all the curses and punishments that will befall the Jewish people, including exile from our land. Imagine how the children of Israel must have felt hearing about all the terrible tragedies that would befall future generations. So right after that dark prophecy, Moses says to them, “Don’t worry. No matter how bad it gets, no matter how much God punishes us, when all is said and done, Israel will still stand and strong forever!” You are nitzavim.
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