Commentary on Parashat Nitzavim, Deuteronomy 29:9 - 30:20
Moses continues his last speech before the Israelites. “You are standing before God in order to enter into the Covenant of God and take the oath that God makes with you, so that God may fulfill God’s promise to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is not with you alone, but with those who are here and those who are not here that God makes this Covenant and oath.”
Moses continues, “You remember how we dwelt in the land of Egypt as slaves and saw the Egyptians worshipping their idols. If any of you turns your heart away now from our God to serve these foreign gods, there could be among you a root that will someday ripen as a poison. God will not be willing to forgive those who know of this Covenant but follow their own selfish heart. God’s anger will rise against those people and God will blot out their name and set them apart as evil.
“Future generations will see the devastation in the land and all the nations will ask, ‘why has God done this to this land?’ It shall then be said that the people forsook the Covenant of God that God established with them when God brought them out from the land of Egypt. They served other gods who did nothing for them. For this reason did God remove them from the land in great outrage.
“There are secret things that belong only to God. The words of this Teaching, however, are revealed. This Teaching is ours and our children’s forever.
“And it will come to pass when all these words, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, will come upon you and you will take it to heart. In the midst of all the nations to which God has exiled you, you and your children will return to your God and hearken to God’s voice with all your heart and with all your soul. Then God will turn back to seek out your exiles and have compassion upon you and will gather you together from among all the peoples to which God has scattered you. Then God will do good to you and multiply you even more than your fathers.
“God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants to love God so that you may live. Then God will place all these curses upon your enemies and upon those who hate you. Meanwhile you will return to God’s commandments. Then good will be the work of your hands and good will be your livestock and the fruits in your field. For then you will be listening to the voice of God and following what is written in this Book of the Teaching.”
“For this commandment that I command you today,” Moses insists, “is not beyond your understanding, nor is it far away. It is not in heaven, nor in the seas beyond your reach for the Word is very near to you. Carry it out with your mouth and with your heart.
“See, I have set before you today life and good, and also death and evil, inasmuch as I command you today to love God, to walk in God’s ways and to keep God’s commandments, so that you may live and multiply. God will bless you in the land to which you are coming to take possession. But if your heart shall turn in a manner that forsakes God and serve other gods, then I have announced to you this day that you will quickly perish, that you will not last long in the soil of this promised land.
“I have called heaven and earth today as witnesses against you. I have set life and death before you, blessing and curse. Choose life, so that you and your descendants may live to love your God. Cling firmly to God, for that is your life and the length of your days, to dwell upon the soil that God swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Parashat Nitzavim Discussion Questions
1) What do you think are “the secret things that belong to God?” What are some questions that you would like God to answer about these secrets? What difference would the answer make to your life?
2) In this portion it appears that Moses already knows that the people will stray away from God’s teachings and will be scattered among the peoples of the earth, but that the Israelites will return to the teachings of God. Why do you think that Moses predicts this rejection and then acceptance? Do you think this has happened? What phase, rejection or acceptance, are the Jewish people in now?
Reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!