Shabbat Service is a weekly bit of Torah-inspired do-gooding, brought to you by Repair the World and our grantee-partner American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Read on to see how these ancient stories can apply today. Seem far fetched? Check it out:
The story: This week’s parsha (Torah portion), Nitzavim, comes at the end of the annual Torah-reading cycle. In it, there’s a description of a ceremony undertaken by the people of Israel to “enter into the covenant of Adonai [their] God.” It’s all well and good except, as dvar tzedek author, Sarah Mulhern writes, the Israelites have already “affirmed their commitment to God’s covenant before the revelation at Mount Sinai.” So…”why is Moses orchestrating a second entry into a covenantal relationship that already exists?”
The “takeaway”: Mulhern writes that some contemporary commentators explain the second covenant ceremony as a do-over, a chance to fine-tune the previous covenant to make it more inclusive to the entire community. “The covenant ceremony in Parashat Nitzavim repeatedly emphasizes inclusion and participation. The ceremony begins by declaring that all members of the community are present—“You stand this day, all of you, before Adonai”—and then goes on to list the groups who are represented: “Your tribal heads, your elders, and your officials, all the men of Israel, your children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to water drawer.” The message is powerful: everyone – not just the most elite or the holiest – is welcome to take on the covenant.
The “to-do”: In this high holiday season, strive to find ways to nurture a sense of inclusivity and openness in all of your work or studies.
Read the full Torah commentary, on which this excerpt is based, over at AJWS’ website. And for more great texts, commentary and Jewish learning resources on social justice, check out the On 1 Foot database.