September 10, 2021
Picture the scene, Moses standing in front of the Hebrew tribes sharing his final proclamation to the masses as he transitions his leadership role to Joshua in the final days of his extraordinary life. It is here, in this week’s Torah portion, Vayelech, that Moses expresses his aspirational words of encouragement along with his reaffirmation of the consequences to the what ifs that the people will face if they do not preserve their faith in Gd.
In Deuteronomy 31:6 we read Moses’ hopeful [yet incredibly awkward] words, “Be strong and be courageous, fear not, nor be frightened by them.”
Our sages have taught us that every word of the Torah has a reason and purpose for having been selected; redundancy is not unintended, and semantics are not accidental. So why is Moses telling the people to “Be strong and be courageous,” and similarly to “fear not, and be not frightened”? I am sure that my high school English teacher would have stricken this text for its seemingly extraneous wordiness.
Yet, it is through these words that Moses slips in another critical lesson to the people on how to live a truly righteous life. Even while passing the leadership torch to Joshua, Moses is still ever the people’s teacher.
“Be strong” in character and “be courageous” in your actions. “Fear not” in your character, and “be not frightened by them” in your actions, is the lesson to be learned from this week’s Torah portion.
How often have we been confronted in a situation where our values have taught us to behave one way, yet our actions have betrayed us and caused us to act in a contradictory manner?
This week is our time to commemorate the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, our aseret yemei teshuvah (the Ten Days of Repentance). Our tradition teaches us that it is during these ten days that we should make every effort to try to right our wrongs, correct our errors, address our misgivings, and live up to our true potential. It is during these 10 days when Moses’ words have a direct impact on the way we live our normative daily lives. Can we be strong enough, and courageous enough, and fear not, nor be frightened to make sure that our character and our actions are in sync with one another?
There is a tradition that during these 10 days Jews would settle their outstanding balances, literally, as well as figuratively. Some Jews would pay off unpaid debts, while others reached out to people they had wronged and made every effort to clear any emotional liabilities that had accrued over the year. This was our time to step up and get our character in sync with our actions.
And so, as has been my annual tradition during these 10 days of teshuvah:
I completely and sincerely forgive anyone who may have wronged me over the last year, whether intentionally or accidentally, whether knowingly or unknowingly.
Likewise, I ask for your forgiveness if I did not live up to your expectations.
If I upset, offended, insulted, dismissed, or ignored you I am genuinely sorry.
Teshuvah also requires the responsibility to “right the wrong” and to “never do it again” so, if there is a lesson to be learned and a repair to be made, please let me know so that 5782 can begin with a clean slate on which we can build positive experiences and memories together.
Because we are Stronger Together the Jewish Federation is…
Shabbat shalom and g’mar chatimah tovah.
May all of us and our loved ones be signed into the Book of Life for the coming year.