Set in Our Place but not in Our Ways

The Parsha begins with a peculiar word for “standing”. While the typical word would be “omed”, here it says “Nitzavim”. The difference between the two is nuanced, but many explain that they differ in permanence. Whereas “omed” simply means that one is erect on his or her two feet, “Nitzavim” connotes an established, entrenched stance, with a certain level of permanence. But if this is it’s meaning, why does Moshe feel inclined to use it here, in this context?


Rashi explains (on verse 29:12) from the Midrash Tanchumah that the word is used specifically in the aftermath of the great rebuke which we read last week. While the Jewish people, fortunately, never experienced many of the difficult curses enumerated in last week’s Parsha, they certainly made many mistakes which resulted in harsh consequence- the multiple complaints for water or meat, the accusations against Moshe, the wrongful report of the spies, and, of course, the golden calf. And yet, explains Rashi, the Jewish people, at this moment, still stand in front of Hashem; He still stays with them. Despite His discontent with many of their decisions, and even after He punished them, they still stand -permanently- before Hashem. The Jewish people don’t just happen to be standing with Hashem, they are there, through thick and thin, with Hashem, forever.


When we consider the “nitzavim” of the Jewish people, one cannot help but extend the concept to the moment we find ourselves in now, before the High Holidays. For many of us, if not all of us, we have a feeling of shame and embarrassment to stand before Hashem, and maybe even rightfully so. But that doesn’t change the fact that Hashem is still there, waiting for us to reconnect with Him. Our placement before Hashem never changed- like a parent to a child. No matter what ‘distance’ one may feel that they are from Him, the truth is that He’s always right there with us, even if we don’t know it. That may bring us shame to be so close, but it also gives us comfort. We should never be discouraged by our sins, because He’ll never push us away- even when we’re punished. Of course He’d prefer that we change our ways, but in terms of our place? That always stays the same.