Parashat Nitzavim/ Vayelekh/ Rosh Ha-Shanah
“For this commandment that I charge you with today is not too mysterious for you or alien (- literally: far away). She is not in the heavens, for you to say, ‘Who shall ascend for us to the heavens and take it for us and teach it to us so that we can fulfill her (la`asotah – literally: to do it, to make it)?’ And she is not across the sea, for you to say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us and take it for us and teach it to us so that we will fulfill her (la`asotah)?’ But the matter is very close to you – in your mouth and in your heart – to fulfill it (la`asoto).” (Deut. 30:11-14)
Again and again, Moses uses the word “la`asotah/la`asoto – to do it, to make it, to perform it.” He refers to our capacity to hold on faithfully to the Torah and make it a part of our lives. As we find so often in Moses’ oration, the Book of Deuteronomy, the ending of the Torah, there are literary echoes that return us to the very beginning of the Torah. This is such an instance. The word Moses repeats is meant to recall us to the ringing declaration of God’s purpose in Creation, a purpose culminating in the hallowing of the Sabbath. The Torah tells of six days of creation that culminate in a Seventh Day of Divine rest. “And the Almighty blessed the Seventh Day and made it holy, having rested from all God’s work that God created la`asot – to do.” (Gen. 2:3)
Commentators have noticed the awkwardness of the last words of this beautiful statement. The ending seems to dangle in mid-air. What can it mean that all of God’s work was created “to do”? To do… what? Some suggest that this means that God created the world so that it should not remain static. It is meant to actively continue to work, to do stuff. That mission is given to human beings to fulfill.
Now, in Moses’s words, we find a clarification of what God had hoped all the way back in the Beginning. If we choose to live by the Torah, immerse ourselves in Her paths, listen to Her voice – la`asotah – to make something of Her – we will not only justify God’s solicitous care for us, but we will also justify God’s primordial hopes for this world that God had gambled on creating. This is what God created the world to do.
There is so much riding on this choice of ours – everything! Yet, the job is not too difficult or hard to achieve. For “the matter is very close to you – in your mouth and in your heart – to fulfill it (la`asoto).”
Shabbat Shalom – Shanah Tovah!
Rabbi David Greenstein
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Thank you to John Lasiter for suggesting the title and selecting an image for this Torah Sparks – Rabbi Greenstein
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