By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey
The cycle has come to an end. In the past year, as every year, we read and were inspired by the Torah—the story of our nation.
We were awed by Adam (how awesome to be created by G‑d and have the world for yourself), sympathized with Noah (poor guy, saw the whole world go down), were impressed with Abraham (first thrown into the furnace, then almost sacrificed his son), were caught up in the sibling rivalry between Joseph and his brothers, and held our breaths at the breathtaking saga of the Exodus.
And then, from when Moses received the Torah on Mount Sinai until his final departure on Mount Nebo, we experienced the tumultuous forty-year journey through the desert. Laws, mistakes, complaints, smashing of the tablets, spies, plagues and the entire gamut of the nail-biting drama which our drama-addicted ancestors lived through on their historic trek from the pyramids to the land of Israel. The Torah reading every Shabbat morning was quite an entertaining and educational experience.
And as we start all over again, we hold our breath, aware of the journey to come. What lessons, insights, and inspiration will we derive from our patriarchs and matriarchs next time around?
But before we roll back the Torah from the Jordan River to 2,500 years earlier, let us reflect for a moment on Moses' final words (read in the final Torah portion, V’zos HaBracha, [Devorim (Deuteronomy) 33:1-34:12] on the last day of Succot this forthcoming Tues) uttered just before he went up to the mountain and was buried by G‑d. Let his last words linger in our hearts:
"Fortunate are you, O Israel…"
What wonderful parting words. Moses was proclaiming to the Jew of Israel and of Babylonia, the Jew of Tunisia and Spain, of France, Poland, and America:
"My beloved nation and my fellow Jews, how lucky, how fortunate you are. How wonderful it is to be a Jew."
No, it's not hard to be a Jew; nor is it a burden you must carry.
No, secularism, assimilation, and self-hate are not the way for a Jew.
Yes, you are lucky to be Jewish!
Yes, although you may live through hell on earth for the next three millennia, you should – and will – always hold your head high!
Yes, being Jewish is a gift, a cause for joy, a piece of heaven.
Yes, Torah and Mitzvos are a blessing. They connect us to our Creator, and transform this world into a better place for all mankind.
Dear friend, as the month of Tishrei comes to a close and we look back on the most powerful month of the year – accepting G‑d's sovereignty on Rosh Hashanah, being forgiven on Yom Kippur, uniting with G‑d and our fellow Jews on Sukkos, dancing our souls and soles out on Simchas Torah – it is now the time to declare our pride in our Jewishness.
I am a Jew and I'm proud.
(Excerpts from Chabad.org - from Rabbi Levi Avtzon)
May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos and Succos!