Dear Readers,

Weddings are on my mind. For the last couple of months, I have been eagerly preparing for my daughter’s wedding.

It was an exciting time with many details to take care of. But once in a while, as I crossed off another task from my “To Do” list, I wondered about all the ritual and formality. Why was there a need for an official ceremony when the love and commitment of the bride and the groom was so apparent?

Perhaps an answer can be found in this week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim, which begins with the words:

You stand upright this day, all of you, before the L‑rd your G‑d: your heads, your tribes, your elders, your officers and all the men of Israel; your little ones, your wives, and your stranger that is in your camp, from the hewer of your wood to the drawer of your water. You stand upright this day, all of you, before the L‑rd your G‑d (29:9-10).

The entire Jewish nation assembled—from the simple water carrier to their greatest leader—to enter a covenant with G‑d.

What is a covenant, and what is its purpose? A covenant is a formal agreement to do or not do something specified. Even if circumstances change in the future, even if each party discovers something about the other that causes them to feel differently, they will remain loyal to this agreement.

When we stood before G‑d as we entered this covenant becoming His people, He was assuring us (and we Him) that we will remain loyal to each other forever, even if future events cause us to temporarily lose favor.

At a wedding, the bride stands starry-eyed before her groom and he before her, and they only see beauty, potential and positive qualities. Nevertheless, they make a pact to one another that they will not allow any faults or follies, circumstances or challenges, or the difficult bends and curves that life throws at us to get in the way of this relationship.

Nitzavim is always read the week before Rosh Hashanah. In fact, the Baal Shem Tov explains that “You stand upright this day” is a reference to Rosh Hashanah, the day on which we all stand in judgment before G‑d.

After the month of Elul, when we have reached a greater level of love and connection with G‑d, on Rosh Hashanah we pledge our unconditional commitment to G‑d as His people. And we pray that G‑d, too, reaffirms His covenant with us, even if our actions during the year are inconsistent with our current feelings.

We do this “all of you” together. We ask G‑d to love us unconditionally, just as we show our unconditional love for all our fellow Jews—even those who are culturally, religiously, socially, intellectually or economically on different levels than we are.

In the last many days, amidst the terrible destruction and havoc caused by Hurricane Harvey and, now, Hurricane Irma, we have also seen the care, love and connection of humanity as so many astounding acts of kindness and goodness have been performed.

Wishing safety to those who are still in the path of the hurricane and wishing healing and blessings to those that have been affected. Wishing you a sweet new year! May all our prayers be answered for the good!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW