Shabbat Table Talk
Parashat Nitzavim-Vayelek – Erev Shabbat 15 September 2017
Week of 10-16 September 2017
Torah portion: Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30 Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10-63:9
We are coming to the end of Moses‘ instructions to the people before he passes on his leadership to Joshua and dies. Here we have two Parashot covering only three chapters, yet they contain a great deal to take note of and therefore we are forced to look at only a few highlights. In 29:13-14, Moses tells the people that the covenant with its sanctions are not only for the people standing there but also for the future generations who are not standing with them: this includes those of us who are reading and praying through these passages this week. What are the first words Moses says to us? You stand, this day, all of you before your God the Lord …to enter into the Covenant of the God your Lord, which the Lord is concluding with you this day (v.9). What follows are reminders of the Lord’s Covenant with the Israelites on Mount Sinai. A difference here is that all the people are involved and named in verse 10 and all future generations who belong to the Lord are part of this Covenant with the Lord God.
So we are told to stand up this day and every day before our God the Lord and hear what God did and will do for us in accordance with how we are committed to the Covenant. We quote the prologue to the Decalogue, (Ex 20:2): I the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage: you shall have no other gods besides me. That is what the Covenant is all about: there is no other god besides the Lord God and we are called to be committed and obedient to the Lord our God. We recall the Shema: Dt 6: 4-9 especially for what we are looking at here: Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord Alone! This is for all peoples down the ages and for us.
This section of the Parashah speaks about the sufferings that come upon those who do not obey the Covenant. These are all seen as God’s punishment. As I read 29:21-27 I think about the environmental crises we are facing today which are as a result of not following God’s Law for us as human beings. Way back in Genesis 4:10ff God tells Cain that his brother’s blood is shrieking to Me from the ground! Cain will be cursed by the soil which received his brother’s blood. To break God’s Covenant as given to us in the Decalogue is to destroy all of God’s creation by imbalance, disharmony, destruction and death! We are offered blessings and curses; life and prosperity or death and doom! What do we choose? Our question is how do we follow the instructions of the Lord that are so beyond us. God’s law is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it (30:14).
In the second part of this week’s Parashah (31:1-30), Moses assures the people that your God, the Lord will cross over before you into the Promised Land. Joshua, the successor as ordained by God is told: Be strong and resolute and be not in fear or in dread of other nations. Your God the Lord marches with you and will not fail nor forsake you (v. 6).
The Haftarah (Is 61:10-63:9) known as the Seventh Consolation completes the last ten weeks called: Three weeks of Rebuke and Seven weeks of Consolation. Thus we experience each year the process of rebuke and condolence, destruction and rebuilding, estrangement and reunion as we prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Reflection: Behold the Lord your God by reading and meditating upon these extraordinary chapters from Deuteronomy and Isaiah. What do I need to do or change in my life so as to be truly in Covenant with God and all of Creation?
Bibliography: Eskenazi, T. C. Weiss, A.L. A Women’s Commentary (New York: 2008); African Bible (Nairobi: 2004). www.chabad.org Seven Degrees of Consolation – Teachings of Lubavitcher Rebbe
This week’s teaching commentary is by
Bernadette Chellew, Durban, South Africa, Bat Kol alum 2008
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