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Parsha Nitzavim

09/27/2019 03:44:23 AM


On the last day of his life, Moshe gives over his final impressions to the nation by gathering them all in a collective sense in front of God to bring them into a final and lasting covenant.  Moshe prefaces by noting that “You are all standing here today, all of you, before God…Your tribes, your elders, and your officers- all the men of Israel...your small children, your women, your converts, from the woodchopper to the water-drawer..”  This final covenant was thoroughly unequivocal and left no omissions, finding no person too important and no person too unimportant to include.  There is an emphasis in the Pasuk that they stood “Kulchem,” all together, insinuating that despite all the diversity and hierarchical disparity in the group, they nonetheless gelled together in cohesive form to stand in unity before God.  As inconceivable as it may seem to our imaginations, the Pasuk indicates that the setting of the covenant was one of respect for all minds and ideas and equal mindfulness for each person’s participation. 

After the Pasuk describes them as standing “Kulchem,” all together, the next words are “Before God.”  As idealistic as it may seem, it was not just that everyone was viewed equally with common respect because they were able to look at their peers in such a favorable light.  The realist cannot fathom such an occurrence, and human nature itself testifies against such impossibility.  It was from a perspective of “Before God,” where each individual found private company with God in relating to the Almighty in a highly personal sense to find a special assignment, which cast the light of “Kulchem” over the crowd.  Asking honestly “What does God want from me?” is a way to realize that each person in this crowd is asking themselves that same question and that although no two answers are the same, the common questioning and grappling itself is the equality that we all have.  From a secular and mundane perspective, the definition of a crowd cannot allow all to be considered equal and to expect that sentiment to flow through the group.  But in the world of “Before God” all are the same.  It is the subtle difference between witnessing a rally of disparate individuals fighting for a common cause and seeing an army march together in unison before their general. 

This concept is especially pertinent in the way we partake in the davening on Rosh Hashana.  There are no two people that have identical thoughts of Rosh Hashana and the aura of “judgment” that it brings.  Each person’s problems, sufferings, hopes, aspirations, and longing desires are so different that the day inherently divides us and sends each individual to their private world with God.  And yet, we all somehow accomplish this in the most public of ways by all acting in unison and saying the exact same words of prayer.  It is almost frustrating to us when we feel so inspired to pour out our personal requests to God on this special day, and yet, as we flip through the davening, we find no place to do so.  Kingship and remembrance are the highly universal themes of the day, and as we relate to these concepts “Before God,” we can feel a palpable sense of “Kulchem” in the crowd.  Our prayers mirror those of angels in an arena where no two angels have any common jobs or similarities, and as our tefilla says, they still come together and say in total unison and harmony “Holy is God.”  We all hear the Shofar together and think different thoughts.  We all stand underneath the small enveloping Talis that destroys peripheral vision and yet hear the roar of the crowd through the thin fabric.  Rosh Hashana in a dichotomy that both heightens our individuality and simultaneously causes us to feel equality in the way we approach God and stand before him.

Thu, June 20 2024 14 Sivan 5784