Nitzavim/Vayelech – Deuteronomy 29:9 – 31:30 – The Torah portion (parashat ha shavuah) for Shabbat, Saturday, Sept. 20

This week is the last Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah. In the Ashkenazi tradition we begin our preparation for the High Holy Days in earnest at the conclusion of this Shabbat. This week’s Torah portion provides us with two lessons. The first is this, “Concealed acts concern the Lord our God; but with overt acts, it is for us and our children ever to apply all the provisions of this Teaching.” (Deuteronomy 29:28) This reinforces what we know from the Yom Kippur liturgy: that Yom Kippur atones for ritual transgressions, but it does not atone for harms we have done to others. For that we must seek out the person we wronged and set things right. If we do, we have the chance to set our relationships right. When we do that our relationships are stronger and our lives are better. This is the true purpose of repentance, to live more meaningful lives filled with awareness dedicated to service. This is what the text means when we read, “See, I set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity. For I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His laws, and His rules, that you may thrive.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-16) Let us all be blessed with a good new year.