Yedidya Bejell
Former Shaliach in Chicago (2007-8)
Currently a structural engineer

You stand this day, all of you, before the L-RD your G-d—your tribal heads, your elders and your officials, all the men of Israel, our children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to water drawer — to enter into the covenant of the L-RD your G-d, which the L-RD your G-d is concluding with you this day, with its sanctions; to the end that He may establish you this day as His people and be your G-d, as He promised you and as He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”

These were the opening statements of the assembly in Arvot Moav in which Am Yisrael is about to sign a renewed covenant with hashem, prior to entry to the land of israel. 

There is an interesting choice of words to describe this assembly – “Nitzavim” as in standing tall and proud facing Hashem. In other places in the Torah, such stance is seen negatively. This seems to be counterintuitive in the context of people about to sigh a covenant with Hashem.

In addition to the above, the torah makes a point mentioning individual characteristics of those assembled. We see a contrast between this assembly and the one at Har Sinai 40 years earlier. At Har Sinai it appears that Am Yisrael is assembled humbly below the mountain, and furthermore, as rashi says – they stand as ‘one man and one heart’.

Why is it so important in Har Sinai that they are standing humbly as one man, while in the end of the journey they’ll be standing each with his individual traits? Don’t we fear that the proud personality of the individual would come in the way of the commitment he is expected to undertake?

There is a great difference in the role of each of these assemblies in the development of our mamlechet kohanim and goy kadosh.

Har Sinai comes right after leaving Egypt, at the climax of forging a new nation with a new destiny. At this point in time Am Yisrael is required to be passive. The divine calling in thrust upon them. These are changes of great magnitude; any individual personaltiy would just stand in the way. But this is a “Big Bang”. The dramatic start and launch of the process. Being a mamlechet kohanim vegoy kadosh isn’t a vision meant to remain divine at Har Sinai. It is meant to express itself in the reality of everyday life.

Therefore, on the threshold of Eretz Yisrael, where Am Yisrael is called upon to fulfill its destiny, they are standing “nitzavim” – erect and proud, each with his own personality and role, and each ready to receive and keep the renewed covenant. Each of us through his own personality is expected to bring this lofty goal to fruition. 

and 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.”

In light of The Days of Awe leading up to Rosh Hashana, may we all find the way to return to hashem and bring this great destiney into our lives. And may we all be zoche to see the completion of the fulfillment of our mamlechet kohanim very kadosh bimhera beyameinu.