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  • Rabbi David Paskin

Why Are You Just Standing There?

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From Rabbi David

This Shabbat, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, we read Parshat Nitzavim that has one of my all-time, favorite teachings.


The portion begins:

אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם כֻּלְּכֶם לִפְנֵי יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם

"You stand this day, all of you, before ADONAI your God..."


At first glance this expresses a beautiful sentiment - we are all standing together before God. What more could we ask for? But if we dig a little deeper a problem arises. The Hebrew word nitzavim has the connotation not only of standing still, but “standing firm" or "not moving - no matter what."


The problem that arises is that standing and not moving is NOT our natural state as human beings. In prophetic literature, angels are called "standers" and humans are called "movers". Our nature is to be in motion but here, we're just standing still - we're stuck. It's as if the Torah is saying, "why are you all just standing there before God?! Get moving!!"


Human beings differ from angels in their ability to change, to grow and improve. Angels cannot change; they remain the same from the moment they come into existence until they expire. Angels stand in only one place, unable to advance or progress forward. Human beings, by contrast, have the capacity to progress, to move forward, to grow, to work on their characters and become better. If a person remains stuck in place then she has negated her most basic human quality.


When people ask me what kind of Jew I am (Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist) I tell them that I am an "Under-constructionist" Jew. I am under construction, always growing, always changing, always becoming. That we, collectively, have the coming days to remind us of how important it is to always be in process - is, indeed, a blessing.


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