Nitzavim and Va’yelech

Torah Portion of the Week: Nitzavim/Va’yelech

Standing Ready

You are standing this day (Deuteronomy 29:9)                                                אתם נצבים היום (דברים כט:ט)

As Moses nears the end of his long address to the Jewish people he gathers the entire nation together and tells them, “You are standing here this day all of you…to enter into the covenant of the Lord…” (29:9-11) When we examine the Hebrew text, we notice immediately that Moses does not use the “standard” Hebrew word for “standing.” In Hebrew, when we want to instruct someone to stand up we say amod, derived from the verb la’amod—“to stand.” Moses does not say atem omdim. Rather, he tells them atem netzavim. What is the difference between the two? Omdim describes a physical posture. Netzavim describes not only a posture, but an attitude as well. In his first comment on the parashah Ramban writes, “That you stand ready before God to uphold the covenant…” Netzav means not only to stand, but “to position oneself.” It is interesting to note that in biblical Hebrew netzav meant “military officer” (see I Kings 4:7), while today it’s a major general in the Israeli police. The word netzavim connotes not only standing, but readiness to fulfill the mission and take the action necessary to uphold one’s commitments.

To Ambassador Haley’s great credit, through tough negotiations the UN expanded the UNIFIL mandate to bring a level of transparency to Hezbollah’s military buildup throughout southern Lebanon. In the past, when UNIFIL soldiers got too close to Hezbollah positions, they would usually encounter a hastily constructed roadblock, and simply turn around having found no weapons, nor report the roadblock. The new mandate grants UNIFIL the authority to “take all necessary actions” to ensure that areas in which it is deployed are not used for “hostile activities of any kind. In addition, UNIFIL will, “conduct more patrols with Lebanese forces and report when peacekeepers run into roadblocks in Hezbollah strongholds in the country’s south,” the Times of Israel reported. “This transparency will put an end to the ignorance about what’s really going on in southern Lebanon,” Haley explains. “When UNIFIL is prevented from doing its job, the Security Council will know about it. And if the UN refuses to act on this information, the world will know about it.” Hopefully, this small but important change will also spur a shift in both the attitudes and actions of the UNIFIL force. Rather than permit them to simply stand in the region doing nothing, we must follow up on their actions and insist that they stand ready to take the necessary action to expose the incredible weapons stockpile that threatens Israel’s northern region.

What about us? This coming week we will gather and stand together in prayer and also in our commitment not only to each other, but to the Jewish community around the world. Will we be omdim—simply standing? Or will we be netzavim—“standing ready”, prepared to do the necessary work to ensure the safety, security and well-being of Jews not only in our community, but especially in the state of Israel?

Shabbat Shalom & Good Yom Tov!