By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey
We are now in the Hebrew month of Elul, just a few days away from Rosh Hashanah and the High Holidays – a time of reflection, introspection and taking on new resolutions with which to enhance our lives, spiritually and meaningfully.
Cheder Chabad of Monsey hopes that these weekly Torah thoughts will help inspire to achieve those goals. All the students, staff and administration of Cheder Chabad of Monsey wish you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. May this year be the year of the full and complete redemption with the coming of our righteous Moshiach - NOW!
On the first day of school, hoping to impress the class with his experience, my brother's teacher listed the many schools where he had taught over the previous decade. One boy, duly impressed, but not quite in the way the teacher had hoped, wondered, "Why were you fired so many times?"
Indeed, this is the very question we ponder when we consider changing our location or place of employment. Moving around prevents us from laying down roots and building upon previous successes. Staying in one place can result in missed opportunities.
How do we balance these two important, but contradictory considerations?
The name of a Torah reading often reflects the general theme of the portion. The Hebrew names of the two torah portions that are read this week are Nitzavim and Vayelech (Devorim [Deuteronomy] 29:9-30:20 // 31:1-31:30) Nitzavim means to stand firmly. Vayelech means to move forward.
The general theme of the first Torah portion is stationary permanence; to remain firmly committed to one vocation or calling. The general theme of the second Torah portion is forward momentum; to constantly move forward and explore new possibilities.
At first glance the two seem contradictory, yet as we probe the inner meaning of these concepts we discover that they are, in truth, complimentary.
In analyzing the two names we notice the order in which they are arrayed. First, Nitzavim; we commit ourselves to our original position. Only then, firmly rooted in our original state, do we permit ourselves to Vayelech--move forward and seek out new possibilities.
We must always ask ourselves why we seek new opportunities. Is it because we are generally malcontent, unable to remain in one place for long? Or have we maximized our full potential in this area and are seeking further room for growth? The latter is an acceptable reason to relocate, the former is not.
Only when we have maximized our potential in our current location is it appropriate to move forward. At that point, remaining stationary can cause stagnancy and complacency.
This too is implied by the juxtaposition of the two Torah portions. It is possible to achieve the enthusiasm and momentum of mobility ("Vayelech") even when we remain stationary ("Nitzavim"). New horizons are not always found in new locations or places of employment. It is often possible to remain in our current position and find a novel approach that would stimulate us anew.
As we approach the High Holidays we would do well to incorporate these ideas into our preparation for the new year. We resolved at the end of last year to improve in certain mitzvot. But as we look back we realize that we did not live up to those expectations and we wonder how to approach the coming year.
Should we dispense with last year's resolutions and try different resolutions this year? Or should we recommit ourselves to last year's resolutions and pursue them till we succeed?
The proper approach is a combination of both. We must strengthen our resolve from last year and work to improve in those areas. At the same time, in an effort to generate new enthusiasm, we must also try our hand on new resolutions.
May we succeed in our resolutions and may we be granted a healthy and good new year.
(Excerpts from Chabad.org – by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow)