United We Stand

Standing during the playing of the national anthem is a solemn show of respect.

Kid standing proudly draped with the American flag. (Image: Bigstock)

Nitzavim-Vayelech

Regular Shabbat Readings

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Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

  • Nitzavim-Vayelech (נצבים/וילך | Standing/He went)
  • Torah: Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10-63:9
  • Gospel: Luke 24:1-12/Luke 24:13-43

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Deuteronomy 30:1 | God's Fidelity Assured
    • Deuteronomy 30:11 | Exhortation to Choose Life
    • Deuteronomy 31:1 | Joshua Becomes Moses' Successor
    • Deuteronomy 31:9 | The Law to Be Read Every Seventh Year
    • Deuteronomy 31:14 | Moses and Joshua Receive God's Charge
  • Prophets
    • Isaiah 61:1 | The Good News of Deliverance
    • Isaiah 62:1 | The Vindication and Salvation of Zion
    • Isaiah 63:1 | Vengeance on Edom
    • Isaiah 63:7 | God's Mercy Remembered

Portion Summary

Nitzavim

The name of the fifty-first reading from the Torah is Nitzavim (נצבים), which means "standing." The name is derived from the first verse of the portion in which Moses says, "You stand (nitzavim) today, all of you, before the LORD your God" (Deuteronomy 29:10). In this portion, Moses invites the entire assembly of Israel to take on the covenant. He warns them that if they sin, they will go into exile, but he also predicts that, in the future, they will repent and God will return them to the land of Israel. In some years, Nitzavim is read together with the subsequent Torah portion, Vayelech, on the same Sabbath.

Vayelech

The name of the fifty-second reading from the Torah is Vayelech (וילך), which means "and he went." The name is derived from the first word of the first verse of the portion: "So Moses went (vayelech) and spoke these words to all Israel." In this short portion, Moses commands an assembly for a public Torah reading and covenant renewal once every seven years. He then finishes writing the scroll of the Torah and has it deposited in the Holy of Holies next to the ark of the covenant.


Have you ever been to a ballgame when the national anthem is sung? Everyone stands up. After the song, everyone sits back down. Later in the game, a particularly exciting moment of action might inspire the entire crowd to again rise to their feet with a mighty cheer. But the second standing up is not the same as the first standing up. Standing during the national anthem is a solemn show of respect. Standing during a triple play is a spontaneous show of enthusiasm.

The Hebrew language has different words for standing up. The Hebrew of Deuteronomy 29:10 uses the word nitzavim (נצבים) when Moses says to the children of Israel, "You stand today, all of you, before the LORD your God." Nitzavim implies standing at attention, more akin to the pledge of allegiance than the home run standing.

In the synagogue, there are certain parts of the service where everyone stands. Whenever the doors of the ark (the chest that contains the Torah scroll) are opened, the entire congregation rises to their feet to express their reverence for God's Word. Certain prayers also require the congregation to stand and be mindful that they are in the presence of God. When a congregation stands together before God, it is more than a room full of individuals. By standing together to revere God, the congregation expresses itself as a single body.

In Deuteronomy 29, Moses knew that he was about to die. Before he left the children of Israel, he wanted to see them committed to the LORD. He asked the children of Israel to stand at attention in reverence before God. He had come to the end of his long depiction of the covenant, its history, its terms and obligations, and its consequences. Now it was time to invite the children of Israel to affirm their commitment to live according to everything that he had just said.

When we stand before God as the great assembly of His Son, Yeshua, "there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, there is neither male nor female; for [we] are all one in the Messiah Yeshua, and Messiah is all, and in all" (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). As believers, both heirs and coheirs with the great people of Israel, we should always endeavor to remember that differences and distinctions of person and station are irrelevant to our standing in Messiah.

This can be compared to the story of an old man who, like Moses in Deuteronomy 29, realized that he was about to die and wanted to give his sons some parting advice. He feared that after his death they would quarrel and each one would go his own way. He summoned his sons to stand around him and then ordered his servant to bring him a bundle of sticks that had been tied tightly together for burning on the fire. He told his eldest son to bend and snap the bundle of sticks. The son strained to bend the sticks, but even though he was a man of strength, he could not break the bundle. Each son attempted to break the bundle, but none were successful. Then the man said, "Untie the sticks and each of you take a stick." When they had done so, he told them, "Now break the sticks." Each stick snapped easily in two. "Now you understand," said their father.

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