Nitzavim–“Not in Heaven”

Surely, this sacred responsibility [mitzvah] is not baffling or unattainable.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may do it?”  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us and impart it to us, that we may do it?”  No, the word [dabar] is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.  (Deut. 30:11-14)

What struck me this time about this justly famous passage is the last sentence.  It claims that the “word” (or “matter, thing”) is not just accessible and clear, but also that it is already known, and known internally, not by rote.  It does not simply impose itself from the outside.  In an important sense, it is not fundamentally new.

Moses’ words here are echoed by the prophet Micah when he says that it has been shown us what is good: to do justice, to love kindness and to be ready to walk with God (6:8).  The subject matter of “revelation” is right under our noses, and its content is an echo of what we already know in the depth of our soul.

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