Today you are standing, all of you, before the Eternal your God — your chieftains, your tribes, your leaders and your officers — all the men of Israel, along with your little ones, your women and your resident aliens here with you in your camp, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water. – Deuteronomy 20:9-10
When Moses officiated at the solemn ceremony of the covenant between God and Israel described in Deuteronomy he began with this preamble. The verb netzavim has a special meaning that mere “standing” doesn’t fully convey. The people are officially present to make a sacred promise. The closest usage of “stand” in English is “to take a stand.” The People of Israel are not just hanging out; they are ritually and officially present to take action.
In case “all of you” might be mistaken for “just the guys,” Moses made it clear that he meant everyone from the heads of the clans to the lowest hanger-on. He is specific: all the men, plus children, women, and foreigners, including day laborers. This vow was not to be taken by proxy: no one “stood in” for anyone else. No one is “understood” to be there, and no one is excluded.
In other words, everyone mattered. The covenant is both communal and personal, and no one is left out. There are no second-class Jews in the eyes of God.
A version of this d’var Torah appeared on Rabbi Adar’s blog Coffee Shop Rabbi.