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Assembled Before Hashem

אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם כֻּלְּכֶם לִפְנֵי ה' אֱלֹקיכם רָאשֵׁיכֶם שִׁבְטֵיכֶם זִקְנֵיכֶם וְשֹׁטְרֵיכֶם וגו'You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem your Gd; your heads, your tribes, your elders, your officers, etc.

This week’s parashah begins with an “assembly” of the Jewish people. In one of his explanations of what was taking place, Rashi notes that the purpose of this assembly was for Moshe to encourage and inspire the Jewish people since a significant change was about to occur (namely, he was to be leaving this earth, and Yehoshua would now be leading them).

The Chiddushei HaRim suggests that one of the reasons that we invariably read this parashah on the Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah is because for us too, a significant change is about to occur. Rosh Hashanah, as we know, is the start of a new shanah (year). The word shanah (שנה) is related to the word shinui (שינוי), meaning “change” – for indeed we stand on the threshold of something entirely new – i.e., the upcoming new year with all the opportunities and challenges it will present.

Like the Jews in the assembly of this week’s parashah, who are described in terms of standing before Hashem both as a unified whole – כֻּלְּכֶם, all of you – and also as individuals – your heads, your tribes, your elders, every man of Israel, etc. – we too enter our own annual assembly before Hashem both as individuals and as members of a community. For our Sages describe the Judgement of Rosh Hashanah in two seemingly contradictory analogies. On the one hand they describe us as passing before Hashem single file, like sheep being counted by the Shephard – one by one (“k’vnei maron” – see Rosh Hashanah 18a). On the other hand, the judgement is described as occurring בִּסְקִירָה אַחַת, in one Divine glance – where He looks upon us all at once (Rosh Hashanah ad loc.). The commentators note that there is no contradiction, for indeed there are two elements of this judgment: the individual and the communal. Hashem looks at each of us individually, lovingly – one by one – to determine how we have grown and how we plan to grow over the coming year. And simultaneously He looks at us in our role as members of a larger whole. He looks to see how it is that we contribute and plan to contribute goodness to those around us; our families, our communities, and the Jewish people as a whole. Those combined outlooks, produce a unified picture of who we are at that moment, and with that, the new year is set into motion for each and every one of us.

May this new year, please Gd, herald in great berachah (blessing) for our entire community; for health, happiness, and wonderful opportunities. May the Holy One, blessed be He, inscribe us – and all of klal Yisrael in the Book of Life for a good and sweet new year!

Wishing you all a heartfelt shana tova, a kesiva v’chasima tova, and a Shabbat Shalom / Good Shabbos!

Rabbi Moskovitz

Fri, September 17 2021 11 Tishrei 5782