Nitzavim and Va-yelekh: The Anniversary Celebration

By Ilana Grinblat

Published September 01, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

This weekend, my husband and I went away for a night to celebrate our ten year anniversary. I was initially apprehensive about going. It would be our first overnight outing away from the kids since our first child was born six years ago. My son had been on sleepovers before, but my three-year-old daughter had not. We reserved a hotel room near my in-laws, so that if the kids refused to sleep, we could pick them up and bring them to the hotel.

When the day arrived, the kids seemed excited about their first joint sleepover. They packed their favorite sleeping bag, sheets, pillows and my daughter’s baby doll. We brought the kids to my in-laws, kissed them goodbye and hoped for the best.

This week’s Torah portion also describes an anniversary of sorts. As the Israelites approached the Promised Land, Moses summoned all the people “to enter into the covenant of the Lord your God.” However, the people had already entered into the covenant at Mount Sinai. Why was this ratification necessary?

Rabbi Shneur Zalman (of eighteenth century Russia) explained that:

Just as husband and wife need to reaffirm their commitment to each other when the early days of romantic attraction have given way to the day-to-day struggle to overcome accumulated disappointments, so too God and the people Israel need to reaffirm the covenant at this later date.

Tell me about it! When I read those words in the Etz Hayim Torah commentary this weekend, they immediately resonated with me.

Luckily our anniversary plans worked. We had a delicious dinner and walked around the hotel grounds (which included a beautiful waterfall). When we called to check-in, my in-laws reported that the kids were fast asleep! My husband and I had a chance to reconnect — and get some R&R by the pool the next day. When we returned, my in-laws remarked that even though we were gone less than 24 hours, we seemed like new people — with a relaxed glow on our faces. Although it was challenging to leave the kids, it was good for us to have some time as a couple.

The Torah portion reminds us that our relationship with God likewise needs periodic renewal. The portion is generally read on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). The timing is more than mere coincidence. Perhaps, the message is that Rosh Hashanah should be understood as akin to our wedding anniversary celebration with God — where we spend a few intensive days together talking and reconnecting, reflecting on the year that has passed and sharing hopes for the year ahead.

The High Holidays are often conceived of days of judgment, with the predominant metaphor of God as a judge who is evaluating our every deed. This imagery imbues the days with a stressful aura. By contrast, the anniversary metaphor creates a joyful atmosphere — which is appropriate to festively usher in a new year.

Our “anniversary” get-together with God may inspire us to try to spend more time together during the year and to be more present in the relationship. In this sense, we may be prompted to tshuvah, to return our hearts to God.

So instead of wishing you a Shana Tova, let me instead wish you a happy anniversary to you and yours!

Rabbi Ilana Grinblat teaches biblical interpretation at the American Jewish University’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two young children.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.