The Comeback Kids: Nitzavim 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have you ever apologized only to have that apology rejected? How did it make you feel? Should all apologies be accepted, assuming they’re sincere?

As Moses’s life nears its conclusion, the Israelites are reassured that God always will accept their sincere repentance:

The Pitch: “[When] you return to the Lord your God, and you and your children heed His command with all your heart and soul, just as I enjoin upon you this day, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and take you back in love. He will bring you together again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.” – Deuteronomy 30:2-3

Swing #1: “The covenantal people are called in the midst of dire circumstances to return to YHWH with total mind and being. [Here,] compassion is promised by the present wielder of harm.” – James L. Crenshaw, Defending God: Biblical Responses to the Problem of Evil

Swing #2: “There is thus enormous (and obvious) power in these verses being connected to the Days of Awe, when Jews are engaged in the work of soul-searching and return. R. Meir Leibush Weiser observes that the process of Israel’s repentance also intensifies as it goes: While at first Israel returns only ‘toward’ God, ultimately it returns ‘unto’ God.” – Shai Held, The Heart of Torah, Volume 2: Essays on the Weekly Torah Portion: Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

Swing #3: “‘With all your soul’ — without allowing the ‘natural,’ evil urge inspired temptations to sidetrack you by downplaying the importance of some of God’s legislation.” –  Sforno

Late-Inning Questions: What do our commentators teach about the nature of repentance? Is simply resuming following God’s commandments (or doing so for the first time) as easy as it sounds? Is repentance best when it is gradual or when it’s immediate?

On-Deck at TBT: Even though our High Holidays will be, once again, unconventional, I look forward to observing it with you, either in person or virtually. I hope that you’ll be a part of our Rosh Hashanah services in some way — we have a lot to offer.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of making amends, it’s been heartening to see baseball historians officially recognize the Negro Leagues as a major league and to accept the records their players set as part of Major Leagues Baseball’s official statistics. It was a long-overdue recognition, but better late than never.

Shabbat Shalom, and soon, L’shanah Tovah U’Metukah!