Last week, in Parasha Ki Tavo (When You Enter), God instructed the Israelites to bring the first-ripened fruits (bikkurim) to the Temple in Jerusalem once they have finally entered the Land He promised to them.
This week, in Nitzavim-Vayelech, the Jewish People stand before God about to enter into the covenant, a solemn oath with Him.
The Parasha opens with a declaration of the unity of Israel.
Why were the Israelites collectively standing before God? It was for one reason alone: to enter into a covenant with Him.
The expression you are standing (atem nitzavim) is used almost 300 times in the Bible and always to enter into some kind of contract, pact or agreement.
All were invited to enter into the brit (covenant) with Adonai—from the least to the greatest. Everyone, from the leaders, elders and officers of tribes, to their wives and children had equal opportunity to receive a place in the Kingdom of God.
Even the ger (stranger or foreigner) was offered an equal place in the covenant with Elohim, in order “that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God (Elohim) to you.” (Deuteronomy 29:13)
This covenant was unique in that it transcended any limitation of time or place. It was made with “those standing there as well as with those who were not present at that time.” (Deuteronomy 29:15)
After Israel broke this covenant, God promised through the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah a “New Covenant” (Brit Chadashah) for the people of Israel and Judah:
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant (Brit Chadashah) with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke My covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:31–32)
Once again, this covenant is extended to everyone—from the least to the greatest:
“No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:34)
So if this New Covenant has been promised to the House of Israel and the house of Judah, how do the Gentile followers of Yeshua the Messiah enter into God’s Kingdom?
We are told in the book of Ephesians that it is through the blood of Yeshua that those who were far away have been brought near and granted an equal place in the covenants of promise.
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (which is done in the body by human hands)—remember that at that time you were separate from Messiah, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Messiah.” (Ephesians 2:11–13)
The Hebrew Scriptures from Parasha Nitzavim-Vayelech are always recited on the Sabbath preceding the evening Selichot (prayers for forgiveness) service, which takes place on Motzei Shabbat, the night after the Sabbath ends; that is, after nightfall on Saturday (around midnight).
These special tefillah (prayers) are recited before the normal shacharit service (morning prayer) from the Sunday before Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) until Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). They add an extra 45 minutes of prayer.
Thus, the mood of repentance becomes more urgent as the month of Elul draws to a close, as we prepare for a special period called the Yamin Noraim or the Ten Days of Awe, a time designated for repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
In English, this period is often referred to as the High Holy Days. It is a time for deep introspection, reflection, and an honest examination of one’s spiritual state.
In this Parasha, Moses asks the people to examine themselves.
He warns them, in a dire prediction, that because of their obstinacy, idolatry and sin, they would be forced to endure a nightmare of tragedies including siege, famine, poverty, war, forced exile, and desolation: however, Israel would survive as a nation and would return to the Holy Land.
This prophecy was fulfilled in May 1948 with the re-birth of the state of Israel.
This re-birth of an independent Jewish state stands in contrast to so many great empires which have come and gone.
God has faithfully kept His covenant with Israel.
The Haftarah (Prophetic Portion)
“Comfort, comfort My people, says your God.” (Isaiah 40:1)
For the past seven weeks since Tisha B’av—the remembrance of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temples—all the prophetic messages in the Haftarot have focused on comfort and consolation.
The Hebrew prophet, Isaiah, comforts the exiles of Israel with the assurance that God has forgiven their sins and, in His mercy, will bring them back to their Land. Haftarah Nitzavim is the climax of these seven messages of comfort.
The prophetic portion of Scripture studied this Shabbat passes over the first portion of Isaiah 61, which is an important Messianic prophecy. Whether or not this is a deliberate omission to keep the knowledge of Yeshua from the common people is debatable.
However, it is important that we read and study the entire Bible and not rely only upon the traditional Haftarah portions that may leave out these crucial Messianic prophecies.
This omitted prophecy of Isaiah 61 is the passage that Yeshua read in the synagogue on the Sabbath (Shabbat) to proclaim Himself Messiah, as well as proclaim “The Year of the LORD’s Favor.” (Luke 4:16–19)
“… The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.” (Isaiah 61:1–2)