Parashat Nitzavim is always read the week before Rosh HaShana. The Parasha begins, “Atem Nitzavim HaYom Kulchem Lifnei Hashem Elokeichem,” “You are all standing today before Hashem your God” (Devarim 29:9). Many Chassidic masters say that this implies, “You are standing today in judgment before Hashem your God,” a phrase that is particularly poignant as we approach the Yamim Noraim.
We are at the threshold of a new Hebrew calendar year and are transitioning into a new academic year. The opportunities are endless. As we do every Rosh HaShana, we have the opportunity to reflect upon the year that just went by. There were many events over the course of the past year that were positive and of which we are proud. On the other hand, if there were occurrences that were not positive, we are fortunately able to work on correcting and improving upon our prior actions. The same is possible for the academic year that begins now as well. If we had study habits, athletic activities, social interactions, and general academic successes, we can be proud of those accomplishments and pledge to continue and build on these successes. However, since everyone has areas, whether academic or otherwise, that need improvement, we have an opportunity to start afresh and work arduously to develop ourselves. Perhaps it is in fact not a coincidence that Rosh HaShana and the school year begin around the same time of the year.
Rav Yitzchak Luria, HaAri HaKadosh, remarked that the Rashei Teivot, initials, of the word Teshuva reminds us of five Pesukim that will bring us to fulfillment in life: Tav: “Tamim Tehiyeh Im Hashem Elokecha” (Devarim 18:13); Shin: “Shiviti Hashem LeNegdi Tamid” (Tehillim 16:8); Vav: “VeAhavta LeRayacha Kamocha” (VaYikra 18:19); Bet: “BeChol Derachecha Da’eihu” (Mishlei 3:6); and Hey: “Hikon Likrat Elokecha Yisrael” (Amos 4:12). The Pasuk that connects to the letter Bet, “BeChol Derachecha Da’eihu,” is a quote that TABC will use this year in conveying the idea that God is present in everything we do at all times. We should keep this in mind as we begin our new years – 5768 and the 2007-2008 academic year.
As we begin the somber period of Teshuvah during the upcoming days, there is yet another subtle connection in the opening of the Parashah to the theme of the times. The Gematria of “Atem Nitzavim Hayom” is 694, the same as “LaAmod LaSelichot” to remind us that on the Motzaei Shabbat after reading Nitzavim we begin Selichot, the beginning of the Teshuvah process. May we all be Zocheh to a Ketivah VeChatimah Tovah and a happy and healthy New Year.