Author: Gidon Ariel

Published Date: September 14, 2020

Beautiful Spiritual Art by Michelle Katz


I would like to start my personal request for “selichah,” forgiveness by saying to Hashem, “I am so sorry if I got in the way. I thought I knew well enough and didn’t need the guidance and help. I promise to make space for Your leading the way.” I have been blessed to hear the sound of the shofar for the past 3 weeks and, thank God, I have begun listening. Listening to the call to allow myself to be a bit like the sound of the shofar, to be a bit broken. When will I let go? The step I need to take. The place I need to reach, “it is not in the heavens.”

Hashem is calling me to come close. Do I dare go it alone? Hashem is calling us to come close. Come close to each other so we can each come closer to Him. “You are standing here TODAY, all of you …” What an honor to stand here together with you!

In the opening of this week’s Torah portion of “Netzavim,” Moshe Rabeinu, in the name of Hashem, clearly tells us, “You are standing here today, all of you…” and he lists various groups of people, men, women, children, with the following closing words,”….. from the woodcutter to the water carrier.” (Devraim 29. 9-10) No one is left out. Every one of us counted in. Each one of us equally important, playing the role that was appointed to us as individuals. Individuals who are part of a greater whole. Am Yisrael,the nation of Israel.

As the Baal Shem Tov understood these verses in the Torah, what do we know about “the others?” How can we judge their contributions to our people and the world? Those who are scholarly lift us up from one perspective, while those who sing a simple sweet melody can lift us up to places that our scholarship never taught us about. “Do not judge your friend until you arrive at his place,” which for most of us is never. (Ethics of Our Fathers Chapter 2 Mishnah 5).

This then is a perfect way for me to begin to approach, “teshuvah,” returning to God. I judge the way I would like to be judged, that is, I only look at you from the perspective of merit (Ethics of Our Fathers Chapter 1 Mishnah 6). I need to invest the energy to find that which is good about each and everyone.” It is not in the heavens,” it exists right in front of me.
Time to pause. Time, as Reb Shlomo would often say to us, “to seize the moment.” Make it count. It could be the most important moment of your life. “You never know.”

This week, davka as we are approaching Rosh Hashanah, The Torah reminds us about the opportunity to return to our Creator and be prepared to once again, crown Him King. “Ki hamitzvah ha’zot…Lo niflet hee mimcha, lo rechokah hee. Lo bashamayim hee (D’varim 30.11-12).” This mitzvah that I command to you, …it is not overly wondrous, it is not far way, it is not in the heavens, “I’e it is totally accessible to all. Ki Karov elecha – it is close to you. (D’varim 30.14)”

The mitzvah of returning to Hashem is “so close’” as is expressed in the verse, “karov Hahsem l’chol korav’ l’chol asher yik’r’uhu be’emet,” Hashem is close to all who call out to him in earnest (Tehilim 145.18). I might have the holy chutzpah to say that so often it seems to me that Hashem is demanding of us to love each other. Not into it? Don’t want to honestly try to love each other? So don’t have contact with each other. Sounds like, stay in your home, because you have to. In a way we have all been sequestered to our homes of late and we still are. Most feel like it has been too long already. Yet, we seem to prefer complaining in place of action toward honest, sweet, loving relationships. How beautiful the world would be if that love could replace complaint, poisonous speech and hatred. We do have the option of choice at our fingertips.” It is not in the heavens. “Parshat Netzavim continues,” re’eh natati l’fanecha hayom, hachayim v’hatov, hamavet v’hara, See I am giving before you today, the life coupled with the good, the death coupled with the bad. Time to choose! Choose life in every sense ofthe word! Please let us choose life. That is good.” L’chayim, L’chayim!”

Blessings for us all of us for a year of listening which allows us to clear the space with humility and confidence and to know that we are being heard as well.

Shabbat Shalom, and blessings for a happy and healthy New Year.

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