Volume 31 Issue 30 23 Sep 2022 27 Elul 5782

From the Acting Head of Jewish Life

Daphna Levin-Kahn – Head of Jewish Studies High School

YOU – stand here – today 

“Atem Nitzavim* – You stand this day, all of you, before Ado-nai your God – your tribal heads, your elders, and your officials, every man of Israel; your children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to water drawer; to enter into the covenant of Ado-nai, your God which Ado-nai your God is making with you this day, with its sanctions; in order to establish you this day as God’s people and in order to be your God, as promised you and as sworn to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with you alone, but both with those who are standing here with us this day before Ado-nai our God and with those who are not with us here this day.” Parashat Nitzavim, Deuteronomy 29:9-14 Please view this link if you prefer to read the source in its original Hebrew: Sefaria – Parashat Nitzavim

As I ponder this Dvar Torah, so many threads connect me to this parashah through sombre events in the past week or so and awesome (in the literal sense) events coming in the weeks ahead.

The words spoken above by Moshe reach out and touch my core; Here is this intensely committed yet deeply tired, great yet humble leader, standing where he can see his People gathered for miles around, for millennia. He speaks to the masses, yet he is looking straight at me, straight into me – at each one of us throughout time (“Those with us today and those who are not with us today”) from babe to elder, monarch to woodchopper.

Calling us: Stand Here, Before God.

Calling each person to stand in their own shoes, firmly atop our own selves, calling us to be true to our souls. Beckoning every one to find their meaning in life, in service of God. Even if that means working to be your Best Self.

It feels personal and present.

These past weeks, two great people whom I have learned much from and admired from afar have passed away. Though living completely different lives and walking distinctly unique paths, they both lived a life of service to God, humanity and beyond. Often well beyond the call of duty.

Queen Elizabeth II (may her soul be at peace), like Moshe Rabbeinu, did not choose her leadership, thrust upon her at 25. Yet, adhering closely to her own covenant, she gave her long life entirely and unwaveringly in service to God, in duty to her subjects, her nation, her Commonwealth and her family, no matter the obstacles and challenges. I marvel at her grit and determination to keep to these principles at great cost to her personal life in so many ways, for so many years.

Brian Sherman AM (z”l – may his memory be for a blessing) worked hard and thought hard. Guided many and helped countless. He stood steadfast in his determination to improve the lives of all living things; from the “tribal heads” – advising leaders in many fields – to the “water drawer” – speaking for and supporting the vulnerable and the voiceless in the grand scheme of things. Brian – and his exceptional wife Gene – stood and stand by their convictions; solidly guided by their deep-seated values and, by their actions, call others to stand as well.

Now we look towards the Days of Awe, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur– Awesome in that they demand from us that we reconnect with our deepest selves; to own who we are and know that we can work on ourselves to become who we are meant to be; Nitzavim before God.

YOU stand here today… exactly where you are meant to be. Make it also be who you are meant to be.

Wishing you and your families a wonderful New Year of good health and sweet joy, loving-kindness and blessings, personal fulfilment and inner peace.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova

*At Emanuel School, Rabbi Danny Siegel, inspired by this very parashah, encouraged our Young Student Leaders in High School to be called “Nitzavim”, as they are now.