This week, Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah, of Brighton & Hove Progressive Synagogue, selects Nitzavim 30 11:14
As I go about my everyday life, I am inspired by texts that address our relationships with others. However, being on a desert island is another matter altogether.
Therefore I would need a text to nourish me in my aloneness. The one I have chosen comes from Nitzavim, Deuteronomy Chapter 30, 11-14: Surely, this commandment which I am commanding you today is not too wonderful for you, nor too remote. / It is not in the heavens, that you need to say, who will go up for us to the heavens and take it for us that we may hear it and do it. / Neither is it beyond the sea, that you need to say, who will cross the sea for us and take it for us that we may hear it and do it. / For the word/matter [ha-davar] is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart to do it.
What is ‘this commandment’ [ha-mitzvah ha-zeh]? All the commandments taken together? Or, perhaps, since Nitzavim is read shortly before Rosh Hashanah, specifically, the commandment of t’shuvah, repentance?
A few verses further on, we read (30:19): ‘… I set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life! [u’vacharta ba-chayyim]…’
Stranded alone on that desert island, surrounded by the sea, the commandment to ‘choose life!’ will speak to me powerfully.
More than at any other time, it will be ‘very near’ to me: ‘in’ my ‘mouth’, guiding me to forage for food, and ‘in’ my ‘heart’, encouraging me to keep up my spirits and be brave.