Pop Parsha: Al Franken and Nitzavim

On Sunday September 9th 2012, I received the honor of giving the Dvar Torah (and saying Hamotzei…typical Rabbi or Grandfather honor) at the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul’s Annual Gala. It was truly a privilege to stand in a room with so many people dedicated to the Jewish community. The keynote speaker was Senator Al Franken, and of course I am very fond of his Saturday Night Live Days. I thought for Pop Parsha I would share my Dvar Torah that was about parashat Nitzavim which leads us into the High Holidays.
“Many of us here come into the High Holiday season with much confusion and guilt. Have we been good people? Have we been good Jews? Did I tip the Taxi driver enough? How could I have spent so much money on Viking and Twins tickets when they are that bad?
We walk into the Holidays with a hope for something better, but were we good enough to receive reward, protection, and forgiveness.
This week we will read for the Torah portion of Nitzavim.

דברים פרק ל יא

יא) כי המצוה הזאת אשר אנכי מצוך היום לא נפלאת הוא ממך ולא רחקה הוא:

יב) לא בשמים הוא

‘For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, and make us hear it, that we may do it?’
There is a debate amongst the commentators whether this commandment is about Tshuvah, repentance, alone or the entire Torah and all its commandments.
Ramban holds that the Torah is emphasizing Tshuvah because no man or woman could find enough reasons not to repent and return to God.
But Mizrachi, Rashi’s Super Commentator (not to be confused with Superman or Super Mario Brothers) believes that this text refers to the entire Torah, as to say that the Torah could not be in heaven because it must be accessible to the people.
I think this is a beautiful text for this time of year. As we enter the Holiday season, we have to battle, is Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur our moment of repenting, saying our apologies and going about our everyday business. Or we can use the Holidays as a time to begin to take on the Torah in its entirety. A time to invest more into our Jewish lives and realize that our Judaism and our Torah is not just for the Rabbis to debate or somewhere in the heavens that only prophets can ascend. Torah is something accessible to all of us, as long as we say to ourselves.
And I had to do this:
‘I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me’
Shanah Tova U’Metukah. Have a good and sweet New Year.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)