Parashat Nitzavim-Vayeilekh-- Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30
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Questions for Young Children
• If you wanted to make a serious promise to someone else, how would you do it?
• Moshe led the people for forty years and now at age 120 he will die. How do you think B’nei Yisrael felt about losing their leader, Moshe?
• What do you think the new leader Joshua needs to do to keep B’nei Yisrael from being afraid when they start their lives in Eretz Yisrael?

Questions for Older Children
• When you make a mistake, do you feel your parents allow you a chance to make amends? How is God allowing God’s children, B’nei Yisrael, to make amends?
• God talks about returning to God with “heart and soul. “ What do you think that means?
• God legitimizes Yehoshua's leadership. What does that mean and how does God do that? Why is it necessary?
• Both God and Moshe keep telling Yehishua, “Be strong and resolute.” What do you think lies ahead that will test Yehoshua?

Questions for Teens and Adults
• In reaffirming the brit, the Israelites are making a covenant not just between themselves and God, but between themselves and all future generations and God. How do you think they felt about that responsibility? Is there any Jewish ritual that makes you feel you are assuming responsibility not just for yourself, but for your descendants as well?
• What does Moshe mean when he tells the Israelites to “choose life”? (30:20)
• Moshe is told when the time is coming for him to die. How would you feel about knowing when you will die?
• What does God tell Moshe before his death? What would you have expected God to say to Moshe?

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Nitzavim places us at the moment before entering Eretz Yisrael when B’nei Yisrael will participate in a Brit (covenant) ceremony that affirms their obligations to God and God’s promises to the people. Note that all Israelites were present as well as the strangers in their midst. God’s threats for not following the commandments are dire, but Moshe also offers hope—the possibility of return. Moshe repeats God’s belief that B’nei Yisrael can and will choose to keep the covenant and reap the blessings. He encourages B’nei Yisrael, “Choose life!” (Deut. 30:19b) Vayeilekh is Moshe’s personal farewell. He is 120 years old and will not enter the Land of Israel. He announces his successor and enjoins the people to write down the Torah and to read it aloud every seventh year during Sukkot. Moshe and Yehshua enter the Tent of Meeting so that God can speak to them together. The ending is not “they lived happily ever after,” but, rather, Joshua will need to be strong and resolute as he leads B’nei Yisrael across the Jordan River.

Find the food connection...

אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם כֻּלְּכֶם, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם
You stand this day, all of you, before the Lord your God... Deuteronomy 29:9

Ears of Corn!
Like cornstalks, B’nei Yisrael stand at attention with their ears attuned to Moshe.

 

The Side Dish

My favorite verses from these parshiyot are Deuteronomy 30:11-14:

Surely the instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it.

For a people who have waited forty days at Sinai to receive the Torah and forty years to reach Israel, this is quite a statement. It is a new world for B'nei Yisrael and, like any good teacher, God is showing God’s faith in the people to be able to both comprehend the Torah and to observe it. Jewish learning is democratized. It is not only for the elite, for the kohanim, or those selected by God. It doesn’t await the Israelites in heaven. It’s here in the everyday world and learning is available to all who seek it.

Think about how important learning has been to the Jewish people throughout history. Schools were set up wherever Jews lived. We continue to establish more and more opportunities for Jewish learning here on earth. It’s up to us to take advantage.

 

 

 

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A Dash of Calendar
Coincidence or not?
This parasha fits well with the calendar. It falls just before Rosh Hashana when we do our utmost to return to God and to God’s ways. There is no other parasha that is quite as connected to S'lihot, penitential prayer preparing us for the High Holy Days that falls on Motz'ai Shabbat after we've read Nitzavim-Vayeilekh.

A Dash of Halakha
In Deut. 31:12, Moshe is told to “gather the people—men women, children, and the strangers in your communities that may hear and so learn to revere the Lord your God...” This is known as mitzvat hakhel (law of assembly). From evidence in the Mishnah it seems this assembly was held through the Second Temple period as stipulated in Deuteronomy during Sukkot at the end of the Sh’mitah (Sabbatical) year.

The verb, hakhel is also used when God tells Moshe to assemble the people to hear the Ten Commandments and in Deut. 31:28 before Moshe recites his final poem. The Hebrew word kahal and k’hillah (congregation) come from the same root as hakhel. If you’ve seen ק"ק next to the name of a congregationת it stands for K’hilat Kodesh, holy congregation.

 

A Dash of Biblical Trivia
Moshe is commanded to read the entire Torah aloud to the congregation. This mitzvah is to be repeated every seven years. How long would it take to complete this mitzvah? According to Rabbi Jeffrey Tigay, it would take between 3-4 hours to recite the entire Torah aloud.

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Chilled Corn Soup with Pareve Pesto
Pareve--serves 6

Ingredientsrsz 08 corn bisque with basil pesto copy

  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 6 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cobs and cobs reserved
  • 4 c. chicken broth
  • 3 c. water
  • ½ c. coconut or almond milk or pareve creamer
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 c. fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried

Directions

  1. Sauté the onions and garlic in a Dutch oven using 1 Tbsp. of the oil.
  2. Cook over medium low heat until the onion is softened. Stir frequently.
  3. Add the corncobs, 3-3/4 c. of the broth, and the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 min.
  4. Add the corn kernels and simmer for another 15 min.
  5. Remove and discard the corn cobs.
  6. Stir in the milk substitute, salt, and pepper and simmer another 5 min.
  7. Purée in the food processor or with an immersion blender.
  8. Transfer the soup to a bowl. Chill at least 3 hrs.
  9. In a blender or food processor, purée the basil in two batches adding 1 tsp. of the olive oil and 2 Tbsp. of the reserved broth to each batch.

To serve: Pour soup into a bowl and top with a swirl of pesto.

Note: For a smoky taste, you can grill the corn before you cut it from the cobs.

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