Nitzavim / פרשת נצבים
Deuteronomy 29:9 – 30:20
אַתֶּ֨ם נִצָּבִ֤ים הַיּוֹם֙ כֻּלְּכֶ֔ם לִפְנֵ֖י יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֑ם רָאשֵׁיכֶ֣ם שִׁבְטֵיכֶ֗ם זִקְנֵיכֶם֙ וְשֹׁ֣טְרֵיכֶ֔ם כֹּ֖ל אִ֥ישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵֽל טַפְּכֶ֣ם נְשֵׁיכֶ֔ם וְגֵ֣רְךָ֔ אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּקֶ֣רֶב מַחֲנֶ֑יךָ מֵחֹטֵ֣ב עֵצֶ֔יךָ עַ֖ד שֹׁאֵ֥ב מֵימֶֽיךָ׃
You stand this day, all of you, before the LORD your God—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—
I violated one of my rules for writing these commentaries. Until now I only commented on what was in the first verse of each weekly portion. I didn’t permit myself to point to what was yet to come in the text. This week, however, I included the second verse because the first verse ends in such a way as to appear to exclude women and non leaders. In fact, everyone is expected or assumed to be listening to Moses when he says, “You stand this day, all of you…”
Granted, the narrator in the Torah has Moses addressing the men but it is clear, at least to me, that he is really speaking to everyone.
My 21st century progressive Jewish mindset draws two lessons from these verses. First, it is a bold reminder that we need to vigilantly make sure our communities are accessible in every sense of the word, i.e. physically, financially, emotionally, educationally etc. so that ALL are included. Second, the explicit biblical imperative to include the “strangers among us” is an important corrective to the xenophobia and demonizing of the “strangers among us” in the name of the Bible promoted by some with mendacious intentions.