14 Sep 2017 Ushering out 5777, Preparing for 5778
We are now mere days away from Yom Ha’Din, Yom Teruah, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Ha’Zikaron: the Day of Judgement – when all of the world’s inhabitants pass before the Creator, Sustainer, Provider; the Day of the Shofar blast – wake up you that slumbers, wake up you that sleeps! the piercing shofar blast calls out to us, rousing us to serve the King; the first day of the New Year of 5778 – new beginnings, new chances, a new me; the Day of Remembrance, when our deeds are recounted, and He Who remembers-the-forgotten records and measures all that we have done this past year…
It is no wonder that this is Coronation Day, when we crown Hashem מלך – King – upon ourselves as individuals, מלך – King – upon our people and our Land, מלך – King – upon the entire world and all that is in it.
It is the day that begins the Yom Tov season. The season that beings with the פחד, the awe and reverence, of Judgment Day and culminates with the love for and rejoicing with the Torah ha’kedosha on Simchas Torah.
This Shabbos, we will read the final parshios of 5777: Parshios Nitzavim-Vayelech.
In Nitzavim, the verses tell us:
For the mitzvah that I command you today, is not beyond your understanding, וְלֹא רְחֹקָה הִוא and is not far away; לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם, הִוא – It is not in the heavens, that you would say, Who shall go up to the heaven and bring it to us so that we will listen and do? וְלֹא-מֵעֵבֶר לַיָּם, הִוא – Nor is it across the sea, that you would say, Who shall cross the sea for us and bring it to us, so that we may listen and do?
כִּי-קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר, מְאֹד: בְּפִיךָ וּבִלְבָבְךָ, לַעֲשֹׂתוֹ – For the matter is very close to you, in your mouth and your heart to do (Devarim 30:11-14).
Sometimes in life, we may feel far from Torah, from mitzvos, from avodas Hashem… we may feel down and out, dejected and rejected – as if the Torah and mitzvos were across seas and at the highest heights of the firmaments of the heavens above.
And yet! This misconception, presented to us by our ever present yetzer harah, is the attitude that is the antithesis of the truth! It is not far – despite how we may feel; it is not in the heavens above or the seas below, but rather, Torah is right here with us, very very close, in our mouths and hearts to do.
Commenting on the above verses, R’ S. R. Hirsch teaches, “The knowledge and deeds that it has in mind are not contingent upon circumstances and conditions that exist somewhere in a faraway land. Hence, you cannot say: The Torah is appropriate for other parts of the world, where the climate and social conditions are different from those in which I live. These places are oceans away, and not knowing them prevents me from understanding these laws that I am supposed to keep. Someone must first cross the sea and study the conditions of the soil of the Torah in its own locality and region, to bring us the information that we lack, so that we may understand the Torah before fulfilling it.
“None of the foregoing has any validity. The subject and content of this Torah are very close to you, closer than anything else; for you yourself are its subject, and your life on earth is its content….Since the subject of the Torah is close to us, and the way to its knowledge is open before us, the Torah will accompany us through all the vicissitudes of the times; and after all our wanderings, and trials, we will find our way back to it in everlasting faithfulness.”
We are in the final week of this year. The great gift of time means that it is never too late for us to effect positive change.
We must find the courage within ourselves to change, the passion within ourselves to embrace Torah and mitzvos, the confidence within ourselves to know we can and will be successful in our quest for truth, and the faith and trust in the One above Who always helps us, loves us, guides us, carries us, and sustains us.
For even if the Torah were in the heavens above, and even if it was across seven seas… we would still need to journey to bring it into our lives – for it is our life and the length of our days.
R’ Soloveitchik zt’l teaches, “I have said it many times. If I were permitted, I would add a 14th Ani Ma’amin (I believe – 13 Principles of Faith). Don’t get scared! What would the content of the 14th Ani Ma’amin be? אני מאמין באמונה שלמה שכל התורה כלה יכולה להתקים בכל מקום ובכל זמן (I believe with perfect faith that the entire Torah can be upheld and kept in every place and in every time). If you don’t accept that Ani Ma’amin, what’s the use of the (other) thirteen? If the Ani Ma’amin is dependent upon geography and chronology, then when the Jews are scattered all over the world… You mean to the moon? Yes. If you want to know about Mars, I can tell you that Mars, too.” (The Rav Thinking Aloud on the Parsha, Bereishis, Holzer, p.277-278)
What a poignant, impactful, all-encompassing lesson we are left with as we usher out one year and bring in the next.
The Torah is not only timeless, but it is space-less. It is relevant in all times, all places, all countries of our wanderings and all homes we may establish.
It is our task to ensure that even when we feel that it may be very distant from us, we are to go to the proverbial ends of the earth to seek her out and bring her back to our homes and our lives.
And when we bring Torah into our lives, and live by her ways – for it is very close to us! – we will merit to transition from the awe and renewal of Coronation Day, to the love of Succos and the rejoicing with the Torah on Zman Simcha’sainu.
Wishing you, your homes, your families, your communities, and all of Klal Yisrael, wherever they may be, a כתיבה וחתימה טובה and a שנה טובה ומבורכת,