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The Torah reading of Nitzavim is generally read around Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. The Hebrew word Nitzavim can be translated as “standing” or “assembled.” The beginning of the reading can be translated as follows:

“You are standing this day, all of you, before your God —your tribal heads, your elders, and your officials, every householder in Israel, your children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to waterdrawer— to enter into the covenant of your God, which your God is concluding with you this day.”

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The Chidushei HaRim on Deuternomy 29:9 quotes the great Rabbinic commentator Rashi, who states that as the nation of Israel was transitioning from one leader (Moses) to a new leader (Joshua) they were made a “Matzevah.” While it’s not exactly clear in this instance what the meaning of Matzevah refers to, it’s interesting to note the etymological similarity between the word Nitzavim and the word Matzevah.

A Matzeva is often a monument, some type of marker to designate the importance of a place or event (Matzeva also means tombstone). The Chidushei HaRim explains that there is a purposeful confluence between Nitzavim, Rosh Hashana and the need for an allegorical marker.

At the end of our year, just as at the end of a reign, it’s important to make an accounting of what was achieved during that time period. What did we do with the time given to us? What did we contribute to the world? What new, positive thought, word or act did we think, speak, or do during the course of the year?

It is important and valuable to go through the exercise of review and introspection and then to somehow mark in our minds and spirits these positive accomplishments. We need to create an internal monument of sorts for all the good we did in the Hebrew calendar year of 5782.

Once we’ve marked the good we’ve done in 5782, we can then more powerfully embark on our new goals, our spiritual renewal for 5783.

May we note and feel all the good we’ve been a part of this year and launch forward into a blessed and successful 5783.

Shabbat Shalom and Ktiva Ve’chatima Tova

Dedication: To the 5 Red Heifers who arrived in Israel

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Ben-Tzion Spitz is a former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay and current candidate for Knesset with the Zehut party. He is the author of ten books on biblical themes and over 700 articles and stories dealing with biblical and rabbinic themes at his blog ben-tzion.com. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.
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