We stand together
Before Adonai our God
To enter the Brit

Deuteronomy 29:9,11
You stand this day, all of you, before Adonai your God … to enter into the covenant … which the Eternal your God is concluding with you this day.

We read Parasha Nitzavim on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashana, as we prepare for our annual period of reflection, repentance, and return. How appropriate that the portion begins with a statement that we stand together – all of us – before God.

Our High Holy Day liturgy, with the use of the first person plural in confessional prayers, reminds us of our responsibility for each other. This refers not only to an obligation to help those in need but also to an obligation to speak out about the behavior of others. Most often this means not a public statement about the actions of others (although that is sometimes appropriate) but a more private rebuke to avoid public shame.

There might be a connection between the collective language used in the listing of “sins” and the importance of not shaming others. By confessing as a community, no individual need be embarrassed by having to admit to others a particular shortcoming.

The confession, like the Brit – the covenant – is between individuals and God. As we read the words of Al Cheyt or Vidui we know which confessions are ours, and we renew the covenant by promising to behave better in the coming year.

Shana Tova u’Metucha


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