As Elul, the month when we say HaMelech b’Sadeh, the King is in the Field, winds down and we look forward to the great renewal of Rosh Hashana, I am still searchng to find God. And now, ten days later, waiting for the entry of Yom Kippur, even more so……He ramains so elusive. Facing another year of the unknown in terms of Covid and global health, weather disasters everywhere, chaos and violence seeming to run rampant even in those places we thought were safe and calm…… Such a long, often self-contradictory list of mandatory instructions to do our part to solve each crisis, too long to successfully complete even half.
On top of all that, there is all the spiritual preparation for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Some of us have been waking early for the entire months to say Selichot, other just started a couple weeks ago. There are also those of us for whom the multitude of words, once a bridge, has now become an obstacle. Is God in the silence or is He in the words, so many of which are intricately structured into a poetry we rarely understand, can barely remember?
Netzavim, read just before Rosh Hashana, is usually the fifty-first parsha read in the yearly cycle (which begins on Shimini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, a few weeks beyond). Thus it normally follows the fiftieth parsha. Fifty, represented by the letter Nun, is the one after forty-nine which represent the forty-nine Shaarei Bina, Gates of Understanding. By the time we read this very enigmatic parsha, we have presumably achieved our years understanding and Torah wisdom. Vayelech, just before Yom Kippur, presents us an enigmatic poem where we must face our multi-dimensional relationship with God and our prayers and hopes for the new year.
The Ishbitzer discusses the verse that tells us that He is not hidden away in the Heavens where someone need sor far distance, across the sea. Rather, He is right here, in our hearts and minds, in our ears and eyes. He also tells us we can have the relationship of a son to a father, who despite our faults gives us conditional love, if we examine the relationship of a prospective father-in-law who wants the best for his daughter, a son-in-saw who can provide everything that is needed (please don’t get bogged down in the difference in historical social organization–transcend that to see the beautiful point drawn from what was then everyday-life).
Without crippling ourselves with the “soft prejudice of low expectations”, we can also free ourselves from the opposite emotional devestations of being terrified of failure. We do our best and known that even though it will never be perfect, God will never Turn His Face away from us in rejection.
These holy days we experience every year have so much potential, both to reinforce and strengthen us, but also to fail. As we’ve been told the last few weeks in various Torah readings, choose life.
It’s so easy to get distracted by all the ritual, all the requirements, for all the halacha which is supposed to bring us close to The Creator, to present the path for us to walk, to hide Him instead. All the prayers and pleading can end up only emphasizing how far away we are.
Especially these years, in Eretz Yisrael, where our Jewish Neshamot can freely display and express themselves, where we don’t need any schtick to overcome our secular rulers who, millennium after millennium, century after century, generation after generation have made us so fearful to just be who we naturally are, but can sit quietly, or walk thoughtfully, gently breathe in the Divine Presence so that every exhalation reveals Him to us and we see that, following the hint of Rabban Gamliel, who required (TB Brachot) that each Jew be tocho k’baro, his inner self just like his outer self, and baro k’tocho, his outer self transparent to in inner self, that we can finally properly meet God, Creator and sustainer of the Universe, in the same manner as did Moshe Rabbeinu, Panim el Panim, face-to-face.
Keyn yehi Ratzon. May it be His will.
G’mar Chatima Tova