We and They Are Enough (Nitzavim/VaYelech)

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
3 min readSep 8, 2023

Parshiot Nitzavim and VaYelech serve as a testament to the urgency of Moshe’s message. As he nears the end of his life, he implores the Israelites to heed the lessons of the past, to remember their shared history, and to internalize the teachings that have guided them thus far. Importantly, the urgency here lives not in the introduction of new information but in the emotional intensity with which Moshe imparts these truths.

Emotion, we are reminded, is an integral part of tradition. Our spirituality and connection to the Divine are not meant to be solely intellectual pursuits. These words are charged with Moshe’s deepest emotions in the face of his impending death, amplifying what could have been a simpler recitation of narrative into a passionate plea to future leaders to engage with the lessons of the past for the sake of the present.

Moshe’s message in these Torah portions focuses on the importance of agency. He implores the people not to look to the heavens or the sea for someone to deliver them or perform miracles:

“Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it (Deut. 30:11–14).”

In these verses, our greatest teacher emphasizes that the Torah, the commandments, and the capacity for righteous living are already within us — close to our hearts and on our tongues.

Moshe, who once split a sea and ascended a fiery mountain now encourages self-reliance. His goal is not to perpetuate his own indispensability but to empower the next generation to find their own path without him. This theme resonates strongly with our own responsibility to nurture self-sufficiency in the generations that follow.

Just as the Israelites in the desert transitioned from one generation’s experiences to the next, each generation has a mandate to ensure the resilience and strength of the next. As we witness the challenges of today (the accelerating climate crisis and the ongoing specter of American Gun Violence, to name two of many) we recognize the importance of preparing them for the responsibilities they will inherit after our best attempts. We are called to give what wisdom we’ve received and to do the good we can, knowing all the while that our biggest mandate is to become less necessary for our descendants’ welfares. Our role, as the current generation in charge, is to equip them with the lessons of the past and the courage, conviction, and wisdom they will need to navigate their complex world.

We must not wait for a miraculous figure to descend from the heavens or part the seas to show us the way forward. We and our children — and our ancestors — are right here. We and they are enough.

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