29 September 2016
This week’s parasha, Nitzavim, brings us to the close of the Israelites’ wandering and foretells their entry into the Promised Land. We are also approaching the close of Elul, the month of preparation for the High Holy Days. The Hebrew spelling of Elul is said to be an acronym of “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li,” – “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine,” a quote from the Song of Songs recited by brides and grooms during the Jewish marriage ceremony. From this month of preparation, we journey to Rosh Hashanah next week, and then to Yom Kippur.
In this Torah portion and in our everyday lives, we are reminded that we are always on a journey. And like any successful trip, journeys require preparation and constant re-orientation. In the “old days” we used AAA Triptiks. Today, our GPS coordinates are updated in real time. We need to be aware of where we’ve been, where we are and certainly mindful of what’s ahead. And just as the acronym for Elul implies, our relationship to those around us – and to God – is interdependent. We need one another, we need community and for sure, community needs us.
This week, we lost a giant whose long journey on behalf of the people of Israel spanned seven decades. Shimon Peres, z”l, worked passionately – and optimistically – on behalf of Israel, the worldwide Jewish community and for peace. I had the honor of traveling with him to his hometown shtetl of Vishnyeva, Belarus, where he spoke personally and eloquently about the beginning of his journey. He never lost his hope for a better and more peaceful world. He famously said, “Optimists and pessimists die the same way. They just live very different lives.”
It is during the coming High Holiday season that we have a chance to consider how we can live our best journey – like Shimon. We reflect upon our relationships and how we can best prepare for the next phase of our journeys, focusing on becoming better, more optimistic, travelers and human beings.
L’Shanah Tovah U’metukah – a good and sweet New Year to you and yours.