A little bit of Torah to bring in Shabbat!
9/30/2016 – Nitzavim/Deuteronomy
By Hannah Giterman, Director of Community Engagement
This week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim, begins with Moses addressing the people and welcoming them into the covenant, “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, your young children, your women, and your convert who is within your camp both your woodcutters and your water drawers…” (Deuteronomy 29:9–10).
In Moses’ address to the people, he makes sure to include all of the Jewish people, acknowledging that each person in the covenant, rich or poor, young or old, contributes something to society; and each person provides meaning and substance to the community. Looking closer, we see that the Torah uses the terms “woodcutters and water drawers”. Who are the "woodcutters" and the "water drawers" and what do they contribute to the covenant?
Rabbi Bradley Artson of The Ziegler School has some interesting answers! He explains that these two terms can, and should, serve as metaphors. Woodcutters are “a metaphor for possible abuse in interpersonal relationships.” A woodcutter is someone who, instead of chipping away at the edges, cuts too deep. As humans, we often seek immediate gratification; we want answers and we want them fast. Because of this, we sometimes abuse our relationships by cutting too deep or expecting too much.
Rabbi Artson then goes on to tell us that the water drawers serve as a metaphor for “how we can see others as wells of inspiration, waiting for us to engage them, learn from them…” Here, we are reminded that relationships are comprised of give and take. We take from a person by seeking out compassion or love, or asking for advice or help if there is not an exchange or a replenishing of that exchange, then the well dries up, and the person gives up.
As we approach Rosh Hashanah, we ask ourselves, when have I been the woodcutter and when have I been the water drawers? As we stand with our community members, our friends, and our families this high holy day season, may we all have the courage to nurture our relationships so that we don’t again, in this new year, find ourselves as the water drawer rather than the woodcutter.