Nitzavim – Feast of Words


9 You who are gathered here today, all of you before YHWH your God: your tribal chieftains, and officials, every man of Israel; 10 your children, your women and the stranger that is in your camp—from your wood chopper to your water bearer: 11 to enter into BRIT with YHWH your God

Deuteronomy 29

They are all there. No one is missing. Every ancestor is standing shoulder to shoulder with no idea of what to expect. The air is warm and seems to flow with every breath taken. The words begin to materialize first as mist covers a valley and then as a cascade of statements wash over them, they ebb and flow through air into their ears.

A current is generated, as words come faster and catch the synapses, making new connections. Each pair of eyes is lit up and shines with joy as the mind perceives in total comprehension. The pulse of the crowd is palpable, steady but excited, matching the flow of words with the rhythm that will beat and resound throughout the generations. We are the newest link in the chain, so we don’t always know how to grasp one another firmly.

  • דורות רבים
  • Generations of people

13 I am making this BRIT and this pledge, not just with you alone, 14 but also with those standing here today before YHWH your God and those who are not here with us today.

Deuteronomy 29

We stand in the midst of a desert near the bottom of that mountain. Some might not be aware of the summons but it has taken everyone into account. Every one of us is there too, the aged, the newborn, the yet to be expected, all present at this epic feast of words.

If we could only be there simultaneously in that hyper-reality, we’d know, we’d be sure and we’d be united. We would be able to cheer and feel at peace at that moment as we help our ancestors to comprehend the words they have passed on to us.

I:  The people walking in darkness see a great light [1]or gadol = אוֹר גָּדוֹל ; they have been in the land shadowed by death, but a great light has shined upon them.

Isaiah 9, 1

II: You will say on that day that: praise to YHWH for your anger was on me but it turned away and you comforted me. Here is the God of my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid because my strength and my song is in YHWH, he will be my salvation. So draw water joyfully from the source of salvation!

Isaiah 12, 1-3

 III: Do not be afraid of them because I am with you to save you, YHWH declared.

Jeremiah 1, 8

IV: This song will be with you on the evening of the consecrated festival; so your heart will be joyful as when you go with the flute to the mountain of YHWH—to the rock of Israel.

Isaiah 30, 29

V: The desert and wilderness will be glad; arid land will rejoice and flower like a rose. It will blossom abundantly and even rejoice—shout exaltedly; Lebanon will give of its glory, the Carmel [2] and the Sharon [3]   will be splendid—they will see the presence of YHWH, the splendor of our God.

Isaiah 35, 1-2

The future can be full of light if we search for it.

Midrash Harabah and English translations by Rabbi Gail Shuster-Bouskila ©2021

Next Midrash Vayelech

A Great Light