Devar Torah for Parshas Nitzavim 5781

I’m Still Standing

Parshas Nitzavim is the last Torah reading of the year (though there are still 3 more parshas to read before we finish the Torah).
The parsha begins with the words “You are standing here today before G-d.” For some context, at the end of last week’s Torah reading, we read the Tochacha, or admonition. 53 verses containing 98 curses that will befall the Jewish people if they do not follow the Torah. Horrible curses, including mothers eating their own children!

Understandably, the Jews were quite shaken when they heard this. Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki 1040-1105) describes the situation as follows: When Israel heard these ninety-eight curses, their faces turned pale, and they exclaimed, “Who can possibly stand against these?!” Therefore, Moses calmed them: “See, you are standing today before the Lord!” — many a time have you provoked the Omnipresent to anger and yet He has not made an end to you.”

It worked. But at the same time, the purpose of the curses was to get the Jews to fall in line and follow the Torah. Moses negated this purpose when he seemed to tell the Jews, “Don’t worry. You sinned, but it doesn’t matter. If you have doubts that the punishments are negligible, just look: You are still standing here today!”

But did Rashi mean that Moses really said to ignore the curses? Not quite. He told them something more reassuring: You sinned. You were punished. But you GREW from that experience, and now you are standing in front of G-d as a stronger, better person!

I can think of several times in my own life when I suffered but grew from that. I was out of commission for 2 full days with hepatitis back in 1992, and it took a month to fully recovery physically. But mentally I searched for reasons of WHY this malady befell me, and made some major changes in my life, coming out a better person. I’ve taken spills on bicycles, ripped brand new shoes and expensive suits, had the Israeli police haul me away – even locking me up overnight. I’ve even buried one of my children. All these punishments were sent by G-d as a “wake up” call. He wanted me to refine my behavior and get closer to Him.

I have been through a great deal during the past 57 years of my life, but I can confidently say that today “I am still standing before G-d – a better person than I have ever been before.”

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