Standing at the Edge of Promise

In 2003, my parents, of blessed memory, became snowbirds. They spent the winter in Sarasota, Florida and the summer in Trumbull, Connecticut where my sister and I were raised. One year, during the February vacation, we took the kids to my parents, spent a few days all together, and then left them to enjoy their grandchildren for a few days.

David and I took the kids out for dinner before we left, and they didn’t stop bickering the entire time. As we prepared to drop them off, I said, “I hope you’re not going to behave like this after we leave!” and Phillip said, “No, that’s why we’re doing it now.”

So it is here, in a similar situation, that we find the Israelites preparing to enter the land of Israel after 40 years in the wilderness. A new generation of Israelites is poised at the edge of the Jordan River in the land of Moab, preparing to enter not only into the land, but into a covenantal relationship with God.

Wait, didn’t we do that at Sinai almost 40 years ago? Yes, but the people to whom Moses is speaking either hadn’t been born when we received the Torah, or they were too young. It’s time for renewal and for preparing our hearts and our minds.

We’re coming into the final Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah, which begins next Friday evening. Our Torah reading is the combined parshiyot of Nitzvavim and Vayelekh. Atem Nitzavim hayom kul’khem lifnei Ado-nai Elo-haykhem, “You are standing upright today–all of you–before the Lord your God.” Kul’khem, “all of you, includes the tribal heads, elders and officials and all the men, women and children, the strangers in the camp, maytzayv aytzekha ad sho-av maymekha, “from the wood chopper to the one who draws water,” to enter into a covenant with God.

The people are then reminded of their behavior in the wilderness, how they sinned against God and behaved poorly, and Moses wanted to try and ensure that they wouldn’t behave that way once they got into the Promised Land. He wanted them to not behave the way their parents and grandparents, who perished in the wilderness, did. (See Ps. 95)

It’s clear from the text that the people won’t behave properly once they’re settled in the land. In Devarim 30:3 Moses tells the people that they will be exiled to a foreign land in the future, and/but they will return to God, who will take them back in love. Not only that, but our great commentator Rashi understands the verse to mean not only that God will take the people (including us) back, but that God will return with us. And that means, God went into exile with us.

What a powerful concept, that even when we’re at our worst, we’re not abandoned by God. Even when we feel exiled physically, emotionally or spiritually, God can have a presence in our lives. God cries with us and rejoices with us, and what God wants most, which is what any of us wants for the people we love and care about, is to choose blessing and life.

As we enter this High Holy season, may we be blessed to be the authors of our stories, guided by God as we begin a new year.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Latest Sermons

Shoftim: Can Destruction be Just?
Shoftim: Can Destruction be Just?

Photo: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. The spotted lantern fly has arrived in our area, and we’re being advised to squash them if we see them. This bug has no natural...

VaEtchanan: Until His Final Breath
VaEtchanan: Until His Final Breath

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/maltin75/6278446183 “Observe God’s laws and commandments, which I enjoin upon you this day, that it may go well with you and your children after you, and that you may long remain in the land that the LORD your God is assigning to you...

Parshat Pinchas: Looking For the Good
Parshat Pinchas: Looking For the Good

Photo: COSV from Wikimedia Commons. Women Gathering Wood, South Sudan My friend Sylvia (who says I’m her favorite female rabbi) is almost 98–may she live and be well–and is often troubled by the harsher judgments and more problematic passages in the Torah. And rightly...

Latest Midrash HaZak

Ekev: Standing on their Shoulders
Ekev: Standing on their Shoulders

  Credit: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Buff_Bill's_Circus Parashat Ekev Rabbi Arnie Samlan Ekev, the third reading in the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy), is a continuation of Moses’ farewell address to the Israelite nation poised to enter the Promised Land....

VaEtchanan: Rav Lach, It Is Enough For You
VaEtchanan: Rav Lach, It Is Enough For You

Photo by Rabbi Susan Elkodsi Va’Etchanan: Rav Lach, It is enough for you Rabbi Janet Madden, Ph.D Parshat Va’Etchanan opens with Moshe’s recounting to the new generation of Israelites that he pleaded with the Holy One to allow him to enter the Land of Israel. He...

Massei: The Journals of the Journeys
Massei: The Journals of the Journeys

Parashat Massei: The Journal of the Journeys Rabbi Ron Isaacs In 1960 I spent the summer at Camp Ramah in Canada. Advertised as a Hebrew-speaking camp, it was my first summer away from home. I decided to document my 8-week summer by keeping a diary which I still have...

Latest Personal Blogs

Blessing My Bended Knees-A Poem
Blessing My Bended Knees-A Poem

This past week, I participated in a Ritualwell class with Alden Solovy on "Writing From One Word of Torah." I distilled 3 stream-of-consciousness prompts on the word "Baruch/Berekh," the root of which can mean "blessing' and "knee, into this poem. Blessing my bended...

The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives
The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives

Photo: publicdomainpictures.net The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives An email from My Jewish Learning about “A Woman of Valor” prompted me to pivot the next evening’s planned adult learning session to looking at these 22 verses from Mishlei, the Book of Proverbs. These verses...

Live Long and Prosper?
Live Long and Prosper?

By Oklahoma Heritage Association, Gaylord-Pickens Museum - Author, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25656727 Live Long and Prosper? January 5, 2022 began the third year of the seven and a half-year cycle of Daf Yomi, the practice of...

Pin It on Pinterest