In this week’s parsha, Nitzavim, Moses talks about the covenant between G-d and Israel, insisting that Israel uphold the covenant and follow the ways of the Torah, for a meaningful and good life in the land of Israel.
Parashat Nitzavim is always read on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashana, and reiterates how powerful Teshuva (repentance) is. The words ``את לבבך ואת לבב” are used to describe how loving G-d would result in a fruitful life and more specifically, how we have to use our hearts (לב), and want to do the tasks as opposed to doing them because we have to.
The Baal Haturim, an influential person in the medieval rabbinical authority, explains that the first letters of the four words spell Elul, which is the month we are currently in. Elul is a time of repentance, especially before the onset of the High Holidays. We open our hearts to repent and better ourselves, which ultimately brings us spiritually closer to Hashem - G-d. Alternatively, doing the opposite, creates a distance between us and Hashem. Elul is the time to close that gap.
There is a story told about Rebbe Nachum (1823–1869). When he entered the Beit Midrash, where people learn Torah, he saw people playing checkers. Instead of getting upset with them, the Rebbe explained the similarities between the rules of checkers and coming closer to Hashem. This is broadly what he said:
Number one: In the game you always move upwards - similarly to how we should follow the mitzvot and strive to improve. Number two: You can only move in space at a time. Number three: At times it is worth giving up the opportunity to move ahead one space in order to move ahead two spaces later. Similarly, a person has to know that sometimes he has to withdraw in order to attain a higher level later on.
We should always try to adopt these rules, focus on moving upwards, advancing step-by-step with great determination and effort; knowing when to withdraw or pause to attain higher levels later on. We should understand that being what we strive to be takes time and patience. Only then we will be in the right mindset to plan our future and not lose hope in the process.
This is the time to ask ourselves: What are our goals for this new year? Academic goals, social goals, family goals, spiritual goals…And then, make a plan for how to reach these goals, step by step.
At the end of the year 5782, we will hopefully be able to look back and see how we grew in the process.
Benjamin, Grade 12