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Parashat Nitzavim - Quick Summary

Weekly Torah Reading

Parashat Nitzavim ("Standing")

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Parashat

Torah

Haftarah

Brit Chadashah

Nitzavim
 

Deut. 29:10-30:20

Isaiah 61:10-63:9

Rom. 10:1-12

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Torah Reading Snapshot:

In last week's parashah (Ki Tavo), Moses warned the Israelites that obedience to the LORD would bring blessing, but disobedience would bring numerous curses - including the prospect of being scattered among the nations in exile. In this week's portion, Moses formally gathered the people together to deliver them a final solemn appeal to uphold God's covenant.

Nitzavim

The people "stood" (or presented themselves) before Moses, from the greatest to the least, in order to "enter into the sworn covenant of the LORD" in fulfillment of the promise the LORD made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  This was the actual "Covenant Ceremony" that marked the climax of Moses' earlier appeals in the narrative. 

Deut 29:9[10h] (BHS)

Moses then warned that anyone who attempted to be exempted from the terms of the covenant would be blotted out from the earth. Moreover, if the entire nation broke the covenant, the land itself would be destroyed and the people exiled. Moses then prophesied that when later generations would ask about the meaning of their exile, they would be told that it was the result of breaking the covenant which Moses was mediating with them this very day. However, in the end of days, the people would return to the LORD (i.e., perform teshuvah): "If your outcasts shall be at the ends of the heavens, from there will the LORD your God gather you... and bring you into the Land which your fathers have possessed."

The parashah ends with an appeal to practice the Torah and its commandments. The Israelite's covenant obligations are not too difficult or esoteric for them, but are completely within their reach - since they are a matter of the heart - and are known by the heart's decision to obey the LORD. Moses makes a final plea: "Choose life!" The path of life is to love the LORD and obey His voice!

The choice between life and death is now before them, and heaven and earth are eternal witnesses to the terms of the agreement. If the Israelites choose to obey the LORD, they will be blessed and prosper; otherwise, they will suffer exile, undergo persecution, and ultimately perish.


Note: Parashat Nitzavim is usually read with parashat Vayeilech.

Haftarah Reading Snapshot:

The Haftarah of Nitzavim is the seventh (and last) of the "Haftarot of Consolation," offering encouragement to Israel for the time of their exile.

This beautiful portion begins on a note of rapturous exultation in the restoration of Israel after their long exile. Just as a seed must "fall to the ground and die" (John 12:24) in order to become reconstituted into newness of life, so will Israel, after having been nearly destroyed in the Great Tribulation, return to life when they receive their King in the days of His glorious kingdom.

"For Zion's Sake, I will not keep silent..." Zion (or Jerusalem) is central to the Jewish heart since it is the focal point of God's redemptive plan for humanity. God began the creation of the universe there, and the very dust of Mt. Moriah is said to have been used to create Adam (who was later placed in the "garden which lay to the East"). Indeed, it was in Jerusalem that Abraham met with Malkhi-Tzedek (Gen 14:18; Heb 7:1) and afterward offered Isaac upon Mt. Moriah (Gen 22:1-19). King David made Jerusalem the capital of Israel (2 Sam 24:18-25), and the First Temple was built there (1 Kings 6-8; 2 Chron 3:1-2). Zerubbabel and Nehemiah built the Second Temple in Jerusalem (Neh 4-6) which King Herod later remodeled. And of course by means of His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection from the dead, the Messiah performed His sacrificial work in Jerusalem.

Before the great celebration occurs, however, there is the ominous vision of the LORD judging the nations during the time of the Great Tribulation. After this, paradise is restored, and Jerusalem is made the praise of all the earth. This is the climax of Jewish redemptive history, when "all Israel will be saved."

The Haftarah ends with a wonderful verse that reveals God's empathy for the suffering of His people Israel, whom He saved by the "Angel of His Presence" and redeemed in love and compassion:

Isaiah 63:9 (BHS)

Brit Chadashah Snapshot:

The reading from the Brit Chadashah reveals that the righteousness that comes from God is obtained by faith in the Messiah Yeshua, who is the "end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." A person is now justified before the LORD, not by attempting to establish one's own righteousness by performing various mitzvot, but by believing that the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua was performed on one's behalf, as both the means of obtaining forgiveness for one's sins and for partaking of the newness of life that the resurrected Savior imparts to those who put their trust in Him. In this hope, then, one experiences salvation, and the righteousness of God is established in the earth.

It is interesting to study how the Apostle Paul interprets Deut. 30:11-14 in Romans 10:5-8 and uses it to contrast the "righteousness which is from the law" with the "righteousness which is of faith." Paul first quotes Lev. 18:5 as a summary of the meaning of the law (you must keep the commandments in order "to live by them," i.e., you must entirely obey them to find life). He then contrasts the "righteousness which is from the law" with the "righteousness which is of faith." Only God can bridge the gap between heaven and earth. When Paul quotes Deut. 30:14, i.e., "But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart," he omits the last clause (i.e., "so that you can do it") precisely because we cannot "do it," i.e., keep the commandments. The "word of faith" is the message that God's righteousness now comes through Messiah's work for us, and the confession of faith ascribes salvation to be "of the LORD," not based on our own works of righteousness.


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Deuteronomy 29

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