Parshas Nitzavim/ Vayeilech

SEPTEMBER 4th, 2010
ELUL 25, 5770

Do It Now

By Rabbi Raphael Leban

With only a few shopping days left in the year, I am feeling a little bit spent. There is so much to do! Shopping, cooking, getting ready for the Big Days of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Succos. I need an extension.

My wife is cooking a boatload of delicious round challahs with raisins. We have a small herd of brisket defrosting on the kitchen countertop. There’s a barrel of honey in the garage which leaked all over the floor and the children are stuck in it and need rescuing. And then there’s the fish head.

My tallis needs to be picked up from the dry cleaner, along with my shofar which still smells like the ram from whence it came. I have to buy the children new yarmulkas, tzitzis and some Yom Kippur leather-less shoes. And don’t even mention the Succah which needs to be patched after last year when we ran over it in the driveway.

And then there are the preparations for the holidays themselves. The festive Kiddush has to be made festive, I have to forward some of the cute holiday emails along like the one about the High Holiday seat scalpers and the shofar that opens the garage door, and I have to figure out which jokes to use in my holiday talks.

I am finished before I even start. Who has the time and energy to do teshuva?

And of course, it’s the most important thing we have to get ready for Rosh Hashanah—our soul.

There is this feeling that overwhelms me more and more as I get older. How am I going to stand before the Almighty on the Day of Judgment this year?

I distinctly remember not having this feeling when I was a teenager. I must have been a much more responsible, wholesome person back then. Practically perfect I guess, judging by the lack of concern I felt as the Big Day approached. Now, it’s starting to get tough.

Perhaps this is why our Sages instituted that we always read Parshas Nitzavim immediately before Rosh Hashanah. In it the Torah tells us, “You will return to G-d with all your heart and with all your soul.” It sounds as daunting as I feel like it is. But then the Torah continues and says that this mitzvah is not beyond you. On the contrary, it’s right there in your heart and in your mouth to achieve. That verse speaks to me. It’s cheering me on. You can do it, Leban. Do teshuva. And if you haven’t done it yet (like me), if it doesn’t fit in your busy pre-holiday schedule (like most of us), there’s still time on Rosh Hashanah itself. Take a few minutes while sitting in shul and figure out what went wrong last year, what obstacles are preventing you from feeling that G-d is close to you and what you can do to overcome them.

Just remember, you can do it. Do teshuva!

The Last Lap

By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum

This Shabbos is the last one of this year. What thoughts should be going through our mind as we prepare for Selichos, the special supplications for forgiveness, that we will recite after Shabbos? Can we simply ignore the issue and observe Shabbos in an ordinary fashion as we have done the entire year or should we be preparing a last-minute strategy for Rosh Hashanah? Our Sages didn’t require anything more of us on this Shabbos than during the rest of the month of Elul, when we begin the process of repentance in anticipation of the Day of Judgment. Or did they?

The Talmud presents an amazing concept. It teaches that one day, when used constructively, can equal an entire year. An entire year’s service of Hashem can be reduced into a one day event. Is this truly possible? Could a person wear tefillin on one day and be considered as if he had performed the mitzvah the entire year? What does the Talmud mean to teach us?

Our Sages understood that it’s not only the performance of a mitzvah which is significant; it’s important to realize the impact upon the individual as well. Sometimes, we can perform a mitzvah with a less than enthusiastic attitude. Although we may have fulfilled our obligation, the result of that act will be severely limited and inadequate. Conversely, when we perform a mitzvah in its entirety, with all its details attended to and with focused concentration, the consequences are awesome. Our entire being is transformed and elevated to a new level of awareness and consciousness. We view our relationships with others in an entirely different light. Life assumes new meaning and significance and each moment is an opportunity to accomplish.

The days and hours are slowly but surely slipping away from us. The month of Elul has now become the last week before Rosh Hashanah. Where have all the moments of opportunity disappeared to? Have we squandered them not realizing the importance of repentance at this time of year? Perhaps we have and maybe we have tried to improve ourselves. One thing is certain, time still remains to use proficiently and prolifically.

The question that we ask ourselves is how can I accomplish, in so little time, the many tasks that remain unanswered before Rosh Hashanah? Perhaps we may rely on the formula that one day in a year is like an entire year. If we sincerely and emphatically focus our energy and concentrate with our entire being the last few remaining days in the year, then we can actually accomplish a tremendous amount.

Byte for Shabbos

In his final address to the people, Moshe called the heavens and the earth to bear witness to his words. Can the heavens and the earth bear witness to something? Our actions demonstrate that the entire created universe is subject to the will of G-d. Therefore, the universe’s continued functioning proves that we are leading our lives according to G-d’s will.



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