Nitzavim-vayelech

“Not with you all alone do I seal this covenant… but with whomever is here, standing with us today before God, our Lord, and with whomever is not here with us today” Deuteronomy 9:13-14


By Rabbi Natan Levy, September 2, 2010
Follow The JC on Twitter

Moses is dying. With his final breath he calls everyone forward. "You are standing today, all of you" (Deuteronomy 9:9). Leaders and old men, women and children all come to hear these last words. Moses utters a strange phrase: "Not with you all alone do I seal this covenant... but with whomever is here, standing with us."

Not with you all alone? Who else can Moses be referring to? Even the infants have come for this speech. Who stands listening, yet is not among the crowd? Perhaps that is us, you and me, and whoever reads this Torah throughout the generations. We are the hidden audience who listen in the desert amid the throng.

Moses's words become stranger still: "And with whomever is not here with us today." Moses can reasonably speak of sealing the covenant with every Jew who reads these words of Torah, but who are the "not-here" and how can he promise that they too will seal this covenant?

There is a two-fold kabbalistic concept : every Jew is bound to one of the 600,000 souls that left Egypt, and each of these 600,000 souls is connected to a unique letter in the Torah scroll. Unfortunately, the numbers don't add up. There are little more than 300,000 letters in the Torah. Where are the rest of the letters for the other souls?

A friend offered an elegant solution: include the blank-spaces and the sum is equivalent to 600,000. Our Torah is not only exacting with each letter, but also in the spacing between each word and paragraph. Some of us are connected to letters - we proclaim our Judaism externally - and some of us are connected to blank-spaces with a Judaism that lives deeply within. Moses speaks to us all.The covenant binds together both those who are "there" with those who are "not-there", letters with blank parchment. In the Torah, there is space for every Jew.

    Last updated: 11:28am, September 2 2010