Shabbat Nitzavim and Vayeyleh

Candles - Friday, September 15th @ 6:46pm
Havdalah - September 16th at @ 7:45pm

Rosh Hashanah starts Wednesday Evening

The Torah says this week, that we were all standing at Sinai when God’s presence appeared and gave Moshe the Torah. Even those not present. That sounds very strange. How can one say that those not there, including unborn children, way into the future, could possibly have been present?

Of course, this cannot be meant literally. So, what does it mean? Similarly, the Torah also says that everyone is given a choice. And yet warns that that if one makes the wrong decision bad things will happen. Again, it is difficult to take this literally. We all know of people who have abandoned Torah and Judaism and seem to be doing perfectly well in life.

I suggest that the first part, about standing at Sinai means two things. Unlike other revelations of other religions, this was not a private one, a dream or a vision. It was a national experience. And everyone who adheres to this national, Jewish identity is heir to what happened on Sinai. Just as our children are our heirs and they can choose whether to be loyal to our memory and values or not.

The Torah is talking about the beginning of our nation, of our tradition. It promises that that tradition, the people itself, will never die out or disappear. However, individuals might and indeed do leave.

When the Torah says that bad things will happen it simply means that there are consequences to making the decision to abandon Judaism and the Jewish people. There is free choice to decide to belong or not. We who identify as Jews today are in a direct line to Sinai. If our children abandon it, they are cutting their link with three thousand years of Jewish history. If they choose to leave they will simply disappear from the Jewish people, and join the mass of humanity as opposed to being a standard bearer of Judaism. It will be their loss.