Monmouth Torah Links

Parshas Nitzavim/Vayelech – The Most Wonderful Time of Year

Apples and Honey

It’s that time of the year again.

Shofars are blowing, apples are dipping, briskets are cooking, and honey is sticking.

But, most importantly, G-d Himself is calling.

With apologies to Andy Williams, this is the most wonderful time of the year.

Admittedly, many Jews view the “Days of Awe” as more awful than awesome, but that is a shame. Because beyond all the praying and all the eating, besides all the ceremony and tradition, there is a simple yet profound idea that Rosh Hashana represents.

Change. Renewal. A second chance. In our relationships with ourselves, each other, and our Creator. These concepts are woven into the very fabric of the day of Rosh Hashana. This is the day when, thousands of years ago, mankind was created with a whole world of opportunity at its disposal. And we blew it, big time.

Do you remember the Garden of Eden story from Hebrew School? 

Eve basically feeds Adam poison, Adam blames Eve for his mistake (times haven’t changed), and they both get thrown out of paradise. Adam is cursed that he has to work for a living, and Eve is condemned to labor pains and a monthly cycle (Bereishit, Chapter 3). What a day.

But pay attention to what happens next. Does G-d give up on them? Do Adam and Eve fight? Divorce? Not at all. 

Immediately after the story of the sin, the Torah tells how G-d lovingly clothes Adam and Eve and gives them the precious gift of the Shabbat, a day of rest and serenity where they feel secure and protected, engulfed in the awareness of G-d’s enduring love. Adam also acknowledges the special role of his beloved wife, which the Talmud expounds to mean that she is to be treasured, loved, and spared pain. (Talmud Sanhedrin 38b, Kesubos 61a, Midrash Rabba Bereishit 11:2, Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer Chapter 20)

G-d gave Adam and Eve a second chance. Likewise, He provides every one of us with multiple opportunities. Moreover, He tells us that He has confidence that, despite our past, we have what it takes to achieve greatness.

Speaking of our ability to renew ourselves, this week’s Torah portion tells us:

“It is not hidden from you, nor is it distant. It is not in heaven . . . nor across the sea . . . Rather, it is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”

This Torah portion is read right before Rosh Hashana to remind us of this lesson. It reminds us that Rosh Hashana is not only the day of creation but, more importantly, the day of re-creation. It is a day that reminds us not to define ourselves and our relationships by our mistakes but by our limitless potential.

So this year, listen carefully to the sound of the shofar. It is the soul-stirring call of a loving Father cajoling His children to return to being all He knows they can be.

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