Prior to Rosh Hashanah, we read the Torah portion of Nitzavim, “standing.” This comes from the first verse: “You are standing today, all of you, before the Lord your God, your heads, your tribes, your elders and your guards, every person of Israel” [29:9]. It is the perfect thing to read before Rosh Hashanah, the day when we stand before G-d in judgment each year. In fact, the Zohar says that “You are standing before Hashem today” is a reference to Rosh Hashanah.
Later in the reading, we have a section that immediately feels like it was written for our benefit, a message provided by Hashem from across the millennia:
And it will be when all of these things have come upon you, the Blessing and the Curse which I placed before you, and you have placed it upon your heart among all the nations where Hashem your G-d has exiled you there; and you return to Hashem your G-d and listen to His voice, according to all that I have commanded you this day, you and your children, with all your heart and all your soul; that Hashem your G-d will return you from your captivity and have mercy upon you, and return and gather you from all the nations where Hashem your G-d has scattered you. If you have been pushed off to the end of the heavens, from there Hashem your G-d will gather you, and from there He will take you. And Hashem your G-d will bring you to the land which your forefathers inherited, and you will inherit it, and He will be good to you and increase you, more than your forefathers. And Hashem your G-d will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love Hashem your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live. — Deut. 30:1-6, the fourth Aliyah
After the horrors of the Holocaust, it is as if G-d gave us a head start. We are free to live and practice our religion in our homeland in a way that we have not been able to do for thousands of years. And for decades most of the world was reluctant to stir up ancient hatreds against us.
Now, however, those hatreds are returning to the surface. With every passing day, it becomes more obvious that the model for the boycotts of Israel today was never the boycott of South Africa, but rather the Nazi boycott of Jews. Anti-Semitism is rampant across Europe, and is infecting college campuses in America.
Emboldened by international support, terrorist attacks against individual civilians are increasing — a friend posted this morning that a rock was thrown through the window of her daughter’s bus home from school. Never mind that there was an Arab passenger or that she was treated (for, thankfully, just minor cuts) at the hospital by an Arab doctor, there are some reminding us that the old hatred is still there.
What are we supposed to do? Pray. That is always the first line of Jewish defense. Because we know that Hashem our G-d is listening.
But we also know that the promise made in our Torah portion comes with terms and conditions: “you return to Hashem your G-d and listen to His voice, according to all that I have commanded you this day, you and your children, with all your heart and all your soul.” That is the deal: to return to the land and live there in safety and security, to enjoy His blessings, we are supposed to meet the terms and conditions.
Are we doing enough? The United Nations has done its job: to tell us no.
May the coming year be one in which Hashem sees our resolve to improve, and “circumcises our hearts” to serve Him as we should, a year in which Hashem is good to us and increases us, a year in which we truly inherit our land to live in safety, security, and peace.