Standing in His Presence by Rabbi Darren Blackstein


After hearing last week the lengthy description of warnings and curses that await us if we fail to listen to the voice of Hashem, we read, in Parashat Nitzavim, of a much brighter future.  Moshe Rabbeinu assembles Klal Yisrael to give them one last message before he passes on.  Moshe tells them that they are standing in front of Hashem in order to be collectively bound to a covenant.  This covenant in essence describes the cosmic environment of our people.  Based upon what we have experienced in Egypt, we should understand how Hashem loathes idol worship and that only dire consequences await us should we choose this mode of behavior.

On the other hand, blessing and redemption will be our reward for clinging to the voice of Hashem, as it is manifested to us through the Torah.

Indeed, the Ramban, in his commentary on the Pesukim in Perek 30, explains our returning to Hashem as an eventuality.  The Perek begins by saying that after having gone through the blessings and curses, we will return to Hashem and He will gather and embrace us.  We are being given Chizuk, spiritual strength, by knowing that the fragile quality of the present will be taken care of by the solid quality of our future.  We are told that Hashem will bring us all to the land of our forefathers and then circumcise our hearts.

The Ramban explains that this circumcision represents a messianic time, when, due to our repentance, we will undergo a fantastic internal change.  This circumcision will, in some way, remove the dominance of the Yeitzer Hara, the evil inclination.  Heretofore, man’s choices have been influenced equally by inner desires for good and evil.  At this future date, we will return to the status of Adam as he was prior to the sin involving the Tree of Knowledge.  Prior to this sin, Adam’s service to Hashem sprang forth from a natural desire to cling to Hashem.  Adam could have strayed, but to do so would have been such a foreign concept.  Perhaps we can draw a simple parallel.  Even though one can, God forbid, choose to hurt a child, one hopes that such a choice would never be realized because it has been etched into our souls that such acts are simply unthinkable for a myriad of reasons.  Similarly, at this future time, we will be blessed with the status of Adam where, before the sin, straying from the word of Hashem was simply unthinkable.

How shall we achieve this?  According to Ramban, we must avail ourselves of the Mitzvah spoken of in the eleventh Pasuk, the Mitzvah of Teshuvah.  Teshuvah is our destiny and we must make it so.  This is why the Torah continues to tell us that this Mitzvah is not too distant from us.  It is not in heaven, nor across the sea.  It is right in front of us!  It seems as if our destiny, our eventuality, depends upon how clearly we see the choices before us.  We are told that Hashem has placed before us two sets of reality: life and good, and death and evil.

It seems Ramban would want us to understand that the goal is to see with our own eyes that just as it is obvious to choose life over death, so, too, should it be obvious to act properly and avoid evil.  Only in this way may one then see the eventuality of Teshuvah.  The choices should be as clear as the realization of standing in Hashem’s presence.

As we prepare to assemble, once again, before Hashem on Rosh HaShanah, let us not despair by dwelling on the precarious present.  Rather, with the clear vision of Teshuvah let us, God willing, usher in the solid future and blessings of peace that await all those who are faithful to Hashem.

We Were All There by Josh Blachorsky

Tefillah: Modern Day Bikkurim by Leead Staller