Cantor’s message for the Temple Newsletter for September 8th, 2023
If you could choose, what would you do on the last day of your life?
Who would you dedicate it to and what words would you say?
These seem like difficult questions to answer. It may even be ridiculous…
It happens that, when reading this parsha, Nitzavim-Vayelech, I am greatly surprised by the words that Moshe used on the last day of his life. In addition to the divine presence that permanently surrounded him during his last days, I feel that he must have premeditated these words that I am going to quote below. Because they are so deep and powerful that I find it hard to believe that it was a mere act of spontaneity.
“You are standing today, all of you, before God, (…) so that you may pass into the covenant of God and God’s imprecation (…) to enter into the covenant of your God יהוה, which your God יהוה is concluding with you this day (…) in order to establish you this day as God’s people and in order to be your God(…) (Devarim 29:9).
Everyone was present there, from the most prominent to the humblest members of the people of Israel. It is very interesting because Moses speaks individually to each one, but as a people. And that is the novelty of this pact: the concept of Arvut, mutual responsibility. Each one is obligated to help his neighbor to observe the Torah and to prevent him from violating it.
This notion is fundamental to the Jewish worldview, as it promotes social awareness. Making that as inhabitants of this world, we do not remain undaunted by the mistakes of others. We are here, today, standing, with our feet on the ground, listening.
When Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was asked upon his return from the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights march with Dr. Martin Luther King, “Did you find time to pray?” he famously answered, “I prayed with my feet.”
For what reasons will you decide to stand up this year? What reasons will motivate you to march? And I mean, not only with your feet, but in an integral way. With your intellect, with your will and heart.
I look forward to speaking with you in the coming months and hearing about the difference you are making in your families, in your social circles, in our country, in this world.
Friends, tonight we will have our special Slichot ceremony. We will change the cover of our Sifrei Torah to white. And so, symbolically we will cover our souls with the purest garments: the tools of repentance and reparation.
Are you prepared to renew the pact for another year? It is my deepest wish that we can answer, yes! May we have the courage to open our hearts and break the barriers of our own ego that distance us from our best version. We deserve to be our best selves, as well as those around us.
May we incorporate this year, the mitzvah of Arvut. I am here for myself, but fundamentally I am here to serve you.
Thank you for letting me be with you this first year, sharing together as a community!
L’shanah tovah! May it be with many brachot!
Cantor Ines Kapustiansky