Below is a collection of Parashat Nitzavim resources created by The Lookstein Center staff or contributed to the site by Jewish educators.
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DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION QUESTIONS
Question #1: At the end of his life, Moses gathers all of the Jewish people -young and old, men and women – everyone – to hear and accept the promise to keep the mitzvot and the obligations of the Jewish people. Why do you think it is important that even the children hear about the laws? Notice that everyone is called together, from the simple workers to the leaders and most important people in the community. Why is it important that everyone hears Moses and accepts the promise? Wouldn’t it be enough for Moses to tell the leaders and they will let the people know? Does it make a difference if your parent tells you something very important which you need to do or your sister or brother tells you that your parent told them to tell you?
Look inside the text (Devarim 29: 9-12),
אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם כֻּלְּכֶם לִפְנֵי ה’ אֱלֹהֵיכֶם רָאשֵׁיכֶם שִׁבְטֵיכֶם זִקְנֵיכֶם וְשֹׁטְרֵיכֶם כֹּל אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל
טַפְּכֶם נְשֵׁיכֶם וְגֵרְךָ אֲשֶׁר בְּקֶרֶב מַחֲנֶיךָ מֵחֹטֵב עֵצֶיךָ עַד שֹׁאֵב מֵימֶיךָ
לְעָבְרְךָ בִּבְרִית ה’ אֱלֹהקיךָ וּבְאָלָתוֹ אֲשֶׁר יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ כֹּרֵת עִמְּךָ הַיּוֹם
לְמַעַן הָקִים אֹתְךָ הַיּוֹם לוֹ לְעָם וְהוּא יִהְיֶה לְּךָ לֵאלֹהִים כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר לָךְ וְכַאֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב
You stand this day, all of you, before God—your tribal heads, your elders and your officials, all the men of Israel, your children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to water drawer—to enter into the covenant of God, which God is concluding with you this day, with its sanctions; to the end that He may establish you this day as His people and be your God, as He promised you and as He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Question #2: Can people change? If someone did something wrong, how can it be fixed? Do you sometimes need help to fix something you did wrong? This week’s parasha is usually read on the Shabbat between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and the Shabbat is called Shabbat Shuva. This is a time we especially focus on doing Teshuvah, repentance – making amends for things we did wrong during the year. It’s time to return to God. This is not easy to do, and in the parasha, we are assured that God will help us with the task if we just begin the process and want to do better.
Look inside the text (Devarim 30:1-3),
וְהָיָה כִי יָבֹאוּ עָלֶיךָ כָּל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה הַבְּרָכָה וְהַקְּלָלָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ וַהֲשֵׁבֹתָ אֶל לְבָבֶךָ בְּכָל הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר הִדִּיחֲךָ ה’ אלקיך שָׁמָּה:
וְשַׁבְתָּ עַד ה’ אלקיך וְשָׁמַעְתָּ בְקֹלוֹ כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם אַתָּה וּבָנֶיךָ בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשֶׁךָ:
וְשָׁב ה’ אלקיך אֶת שְׁבוּתְךָ וְרִחֲמֶךָ וְשָׁב וְקִבֶּצְךָ מִכָּל הָעַמִּים אֲשֶׁר הֱפִיצְךָ ה’ אלקיך שָׁמָּה
When all these things befall you—the blessing and the curse that I have set before you—and you take them to heart amidst the various nations to which your God has banished you, and you return to your God and you and your children heed God’s command with all your heart and soul, just as I enjoin upon you this day, then your God will restore your fortunes. [God] will bring you together again from all the peoples where your God has scattered you.
Question #3: Moses orchestrates a major ceremony to recommit to the covenant with God, emphasizing that the covenant applies equally to all – from the most respected to the poorest people and from the most educated elders to the most ignorant of children. Who should be making decisions for society – the elite few who have knowledge and expertise or the uneducated masses? How do we include everyone in the process while ensuring that the best decisions are made?
Question #4: God punishes us when we stray from the correct path and we are expected to return to God. Who should make the first move? When two people, or two groups, are in a relationship that frays, who should make the first move to break the impasse? What if the relationship is not between equals, but one in which one side clearly wields more power than the other?