The Torah portion, or parasha, this week is Nitzavim-Vayelech and is found in Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30. It is the passage traditionally read before the High Holy Days and prompts us to reflect on our actions and choices. In this parasha, we hear Moses’ last message to the people. Moses reminds the people that they are entering into a covenant with God and that those who violate that covenant will be disciplined. Moses also tells the people that even though God may punish their disobedience, God will not abandon them. When they return to God in repentance, God will welcome them lovingly and restore God’s blessings to them. Moses encourages the people, telling them that God’s mitzvot are not too difficult or beyond reach. Rather, they are very close, so that every individual has the ability to observe them.
This passage has two main themes – one is about choices we face every day about living our commitment to bless God and others. The other is about repentance – the process of recognizing where we have made bad choices and have fallen short of how we ought to live, and we return back to making right choices. Repentance involves both thought and action. We see in the passage that God always has an open door policy on forgiveness and that he will never abandon us, regardless of our choices. We also see that God has put within each of us – in our mouths and heart – the mitzvot God wants us to observe so that we don’t have to worry about knowing what God wants us to do or not having the strength to do them. As we approach the High Holy Days, may we use the time to reflect on the choices we have made this year, and what areas of our lives we would like to make better choices in. Let us also remember to be as forgiving of others and their choices as we expect God to be forgiving of us.