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Tish Talk by Rabbi Shalom Rubanowitz Nitzavim-Vayelech

Dear Friends,

Back” after weeks of exhilarating, physically challenging, yet simultaneously refreshing and restful “off time”, I thought I would have trouble “funneling” my experiences into a message on the Parasha appropriate for your Pre-Rosh Hashana Tish. So wrong I was. Just two verses into my review of this week’s double-Parashah today’s Tish Talk jumped right up at me! The ground-breaking idea I wish to share with you (I have yet to see any commentary go in this direction) surrounds the Torah’s description of all the people “standing” together on Moses’ last day on earth, too “Pass into the Covenant” with Hashem. Here is the text:

You are all standing this day before the Lord, your God the leaders of your tribes, your elders and your officers, every man of Israel,

טאַתֶּ֨ם נִצָּבִ֤ים הַיּוֹם֙ כֻּלְּכֶ֔ם לִפְנֵ֖י הֹ אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֑ם רָֽאשֵׁיכֶ֣ם שִׁבְטֵיכֶ֗ם זִקְנֵיכֶם֙ וְשֹׁ֣טְרֵיכֶ֔ם כֹּ֖ל אִ֥ישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵֽל:

10your young children, your women, and your convert who is within your camp from the hewer of your wood to the drawer of your water,  יטַפְּכֶ֣ם נְשֵׁיכֶ֔ם וְגֵ֣רְךָ֔ אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּקֶ֣רֶב מַֽחֲנֶ֑יךָ מֵֽחֹטֵ֣ב עֵצֶ֔יךָ עַ֖ד שֹׁאֵ֥ב מֵימֶֽיךָ:

11that you may enter the covenant of the Lord, your God, and His oath, which the Lord, your God, is making with you this day,

יאלְעָבְרְךָ֗ בִּבְרִ֛ית הֹ אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ וּבְאָֽלָת֑וֹ אֲשֶׁר֙ הֹ אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ כֹּרֵ֥ת עִמְּךָ֖ הַיּֽוֹם:

Thus, after literally specifying that every “person of Israel” was standing there in this “final rededication and contract signing ceremony” of commitment to Hashem and the Torah and Eretz Yisrael, including men, women, children, all those that converted, -everyone!, the Torah decides to also mentions two categories of professions: “from the wood choppers to the water carriers”.  

Aside from the curious fact that doctors, lawyers or accountants did not make it to the list, the odd choice of these particular type of tradespeople cries out for an explanation. Rashi does not let this go unnoticed (offering the suggestion that this refers to certain Canaanite “convert wannabees” who were offered these jobs as a precondition to their affiliation with Israel) but I was always left with the feeling that there is a much deeper idea embedded in these oddly described “congregants”. After all, the Torah is presenting one of most monumental moments of extraordinary significance.