“You stand this day, all of you, before the Lord your God” Deuteronomy 29:9
the Israelites renewing their Covenant with God before entering the Promised Land. And in their experience, we find a message that is pertinent to our own.
Moses declares “You stand this day”, including the entire Israelite nation. Women, children, leaders and workers; all stand together before God. This display of national unity is heartwarming. But it’s also slightly puzzling, because the parashah is a continuation of a long speech that Moses began many chapters ago. Why does Moses reiterate here that the people are standing together?
Some explain the words literally. Ramban suggests they were standing before the ark, while Rashi says they stood in ranks, as the leadership passed from Moses to Joshua. But this doesn’t explain why the statement is made in the middle of Moses’s speech.
The Midrash connects the words, “You stand,” to the previous parashah, Ki Tavo. There, the people were warned that the future would bring exile, disease and bloodshed and they were, unsurprisingly, terrified. Sensing their fear, Moses seeks to reassure them. The Midrash understands the phrase as “You survive this day”. Despite the threatened punishments, God, in His mercy, has kept them alive. This sentiment is found in the Rosh Hashanah liturgy.
The Chasidic masters turn the Midrash around. Rather than comforting the people, Moses is praising them. Nations threatened with disaster resort to division and infighting. Yet, despite the terrifying predictions, the Israelites remain as united as when they were blessed with miracles. They are not merely standing. They are remaining steadfast. Moses proudly declares that, despite the frightening curses, the entire nation remains united.
There is possibly no better time than Rosh Hashanah to be reminded that, whatever the future holds, national and communal unity are worthy of praise.