The Torah portion of Nitzavim is always read before Rosh Hashanah, a fitting time to speak about reflection and repentance. Often we have a strong desire to make changes in our lives. We may want to be better parents, better spouses, and better people. We aspire to greater spirituality in our lives, to devote more time to Torah study, to be more thoughtful in our interpersonal relationships. And yet, circumstances may make such resolutions very difficult to keep. Our goals may seem unattainable, and our personality faults beyond correction.
The Torah describes the national teshuvah (repentance) of the Jewish people as they return to their homeland and their faith:
|“Among the nations where the Lord your God has banished you, you will reflect on the situation. Then you will return up to the Lord your God…. He will gather you from among the nations… and bring you to the land that your ancestors possessed.|
|“God will remove the barriers from your hearts… and you will repent and obey God, keeping all of His commandments…. For you will return to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.” (Deut. 30:1-10)|
Twice, the verse states that “you will return to God.” Is there a purpose to this repetition? A careful reading reveals a slight discrepancy between the two phrases.
After reflection in the exile, the Jewish people will return to the land of their fathers. Here the text says, “you will return up to God,” using the Hebrew word ‘עד’ (‘ad’).
After returning to the Land of Israel and God removes the barriers of their hearts, they will learn to fully love God and keep His commandments. This time the Torah says, “you will return to God,” using the preposition ‘אל’ (‘el’).