Need Not Be Present To Win: Nitzavim-Vayelekh 2020

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Is 80 percent of success just showing up, as the saying goes? Or do we need to add far more than “just” our presence in order to make a true impact?

With all of Israel gathered near the end of Moses’s life, the people learn that they didn’t necessarily need to show up at all:

The Pitch: “I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with you alone, but both with those who are standing with us this day before Adonai our God and with those who are not here with us this day.” – Deuteronomy 29:13-14

Swing #1: “You will therefore have to explain to these unborn generations in due course that you yourselves only received this land on the understanding that subsequent generations of Jews would remain loyal to the terms of your acceptance. They will continue to inherit the land from you only on that basis.” – Sforno

Swing #2: “I’m confused about this covenant business. … Now they’re signing yet another agreement, just as they’re about to cross into Canaan. How many drafted covenants does one divinity need, especially since they all say virtually the same thing?” – David Plotz, Good Book

Swing #3: “R. Isaac said: All the prophets received the inspirations for their future prophesies at Mount Sinai. How do we know this to be so? … “Standing with us this day” refers to those who were already born, and “with those who are not here” alludes to those who were to be born in the future.” – Tanhuma Yitro

Late-Inning Questions: How do our commentators understand the importance of marking important days for posterity? On this day of national remembrance in America, are we well-equipped to communicate the lessons of the September 11, 2001 attacks to future generations? How can we ensure that history provides lessons and not just stories?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: We’re excited to kick off the High Holiday season with Selihot on Saturday night, September 12th. Join us for a Zoom discussion at 9pm with Rabbi Rosenbaum and Congregation Shir Shalom’s Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein at 9pm (register here), and then switch to the TBT livestream at 10pm for services with Cantor Spindler and Rabbi Rosenbaum (follow along with the Selihot book here).

The Big Inning at the End: Mazal Tov to Dean Kremer, the first Israeli to play in — and win — a Major League Baseball game this week.

Shabbat Shalom, and stay safe!