Stand Still and Get Going
September 11, 2020
By Rus Devorah Wallen

I’m Rus Devorah Wallen, and I’d like to share my T for 2, my Torah thought for 2 minutes, more or less 😉  Click to listen or read the full transcript below!

This week’s portion is combined or what’s called a double portion of Nitzavim and Vayeilech. The first portion begins, “V’Atem Nitzavim – You are all standing firmly this day.”  The verse continues, “your tribal heads, your elders, your officials, all of Israel, from your children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp, from wood chopper to water drawer — to enter into the Covenant with Hashem.” Moshe is conveying our special bond with and accountability to Hashem – a bidirectional and eternal pact including all of us.  No one individual is more significant than the other in this relationship.

About this verse, the commentator, Da’as Z’keinim says, “You are all standing at attention this day; all at the same time; ordinary Israelites, judges, law enforcers, all of you as a unified congregation. One people with one allegiance.” You may recall, back in Exodus, “the people of Israel encamped by the mountain.” Rashi reveals a beautifully poignant secret found in a grammatical inconsistency regarding this verse.  As we know, there are no “mistakes” in the Torah.  Something can be learned from any apparent anomaly. The singular verb – “Vayichan, meaning it encamped is used instead of vayachanu they encamped.” Rashi explains this irregularity stating that we were “k’ish echod b’lev echod – like one person with one heart.” So, Nitzavim is about standing strong, together as one, with a common mission. On the other hand, Vayeilech, which is the first word of our second parsha – means, “and Moshe went.”  The verse continues, “…and he spoke these words to all of Israel. He said to them: I am now one hundred and twenty years old, I can no longer be active. Moreover, the L-rd has said to me, ‘You will not go across over the Jordan.”’ With G-d as his witness, Moses sings his swan song of departure to the Jewish People.  This begins with the words, “and he went.”

Even though these two portions are together this Shabbos, their names are diametrically opposite in meaning! Nitzavim means standing firmly in place and Vayeilech, means going forward and moving.  The Lubavitcher Rebbe  synthesizes these ideas. He explains that our job requires both features: The Nitzavim aspect  – we need to stand firmly since Hashem, our Rock, gives us His firm and immutable mission – through the Eternal Torah and mitzvos. Once solid, then we go to the Vayeilech quality which requires movement. Nitzavim and Vayeilech are together, since the service of Vayeilech, movement and change, requires Nitzavim as a prerequisite — the recognition of our strength as a people. Divine service is predicated on these two distinct kinds of service — standing steadfast and grounded with resolve, and then, continuous movement, growth and advancement from level to level once we’re strong.

Living in these unprecedented times during COVID, we are all trying to adapt to our new realities.  The instability is confounding and confusing, often we’re caught in an information or disinformation overload.  Just as this Friday’s memorable date of 9/11 reminds us, after a painful challenge, with resolve, life continues on.  This too shall pass. In our parsha, Moshe encourages us stating, “Ki karov eilecho ha davar m’od…This thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.  Recent phenomena will not undermine us.  We’re given the strength as an Eternal nation who has survived millennia of hostility from outside forces, diasporas, slaveries, expulsions, holocausts, and more.  Ki karov – it’s very close to you teaches us despite our challenges, we have the capacity to overcome our inner and outer opponents.  During, because of and in spite of them, we adjust, and reappear stronger and often brighter, like the Phoenix. (Yes, BTW, the Phoenix is Torah concept). May Hashem give us the ability to remain together, strong and with resolve toward forward motion.

Rus Devorah (Darcy) Wallen, LCSW, PC is a Psychotherapist, Motivational Entertainer and Composer at Torahtherapeutics®

Stand Still and Get Going - Jewish thought of the week graphic