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Two Minutes of Torah: Nitzavim - Standing Tall

For several months our daughter Gabby has been in a class with children slightly older than she is.  And on one occasion the teacher said to me I shouldn't worry about her because when she needs to stand up for her self, she puffs up her chest and stands tall.  She doesn't quite reaching the same height as the other children but doing the most that she can to stand as upright as possible.  

This week's Torah portion begins by emphasizing the fact that the Israelites are standing before God.  In the Hebrew we read "Atem nitzavim hayom kulchem lifenei Adonai Eloheichem" - "You stand this day, all of you, before Adonai your God".  This Torah portion begins with the sense that the entire Israelite community is assembled together in the presence of God and that all of them are there standing tall together.  The text continues making it clear "your tribal heads, your elders, and your officials, all the people of Israel, your children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp from woodchopper to waterdrawer."  Everyone gathers together at this moment, to enter into "the covenant of Adonai your God which Adonai your God is concluding with you this day".  

This is the moment where it becomes not just the covenant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not just Moses' covenant; but a covenant with all of the Israelite community and it is on this day that we therefore begin by reading "Atem nitzavim" - "You stand".  

For a people who had been bent down by slavery in Egypt, who had suffered all of those persecutions and who had needed to establish themselves for forty years in the wilderness, now finally they come to the point where they can stand tall in the presence of God.  They don't need to be hunched over or crouched down, but now they are able to enter into a covenant, a relationship with God. 

For all of the people it's important they do it in some ways with some sense of equality and power and therefore the text emphasizes this idea of the people standing tall.  Only in that physical moment are they able to enter into the covenant collectively with God.  

And it's not just their covenant, because as it says later on, the covenant was also made with those who are not with us here this day.  It is our covenant.  We are the ones who are the heirs to these upstanding Israelites.  And we have to think about the way that we can stand tall to maintain the covenant.  Maintaining our relationship with God but also ensuring that we are those ones bringing blessing into the world, and continuing the legacy of those Israelites thousands of years ago.  

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