Standing up for Yourself by Rabbi Darren Blackstein


As we approach the Yamim Noraim, each one of us is once again confronted with monumental challenges and questions.  Am I a better person than I was last year? On what do I need to improve? Can I really change? Have I given up? The process of self-evaluation that one goes through can be very difficult. This process takes not only time, but also patience and honesty. At times it can be quite revealing and unearthing. We take our faults seriously and can be quite dejected when facing them. Our Parsha addresses this dilemma in Devarim 30:11. The Torah, having just spoken about our eventual return to Hashem, says that “this Mitzvah” is not hidden and not distant. It is not in the heavens or across the sea. It is actually quite close to us so that its performance can be facilitated. The difficulty in the Pasuk is to determine just what “this Mitzvah” refers to. The Ramban explains that it refers to the Mitzvah of Teshuvah. Teshuvah, here, is talked about in the future tense because the Torah is forecasting the eventual repentance of the Jewish Nation. Very often, Teshuvah seems to be a never-ending process, an unattainable goal. There are so many setbacks in life that just when you think you have taken a step forward, something happens to make you feel as if you took two steps backward. The person we want to become seems so far from the person we are today. The Torah provides the cure for this ailment. Teshuvah, despite its appearance, is not as far away as you think. Change is difficult. It can happen so slowly that the increments go unnoticed. However, says Hashem, the process is available to us. How could it be a mitzvah, a commandment, if it were not within our grasp? It is a process that lasts a lifetime but do not confuse its timeframe with its availability.

How close to us is this Teshuvah process? As close as the decision itself! The Torah tells us in Devarim 30:19 that life and death is before us and we will choose life. We have the power to make this decision. We live in a world often marked by dark times. There are extremists that seem to have an agenda which chooses death over life. It's the easy way out! The challenges of life are complicated so sacrifice yourself quickly for your beliefs! The Torah recommends the opposite approach. Choose life, deal with life, and live your life. That takes courage! The Parsha starts out by saying that our nation is standing today before Hashem. Rashi tells us that Moshe began to console us by saying that we are standing today before Hashem despite the fact that we have angered Hashem! We are nevertheless here. The fact that Hashem has preserved us demonstrates that we are worthy of participating in the life-long struggle for repentance. May we all have the courage to choose a meaningful Torah life, demonstrating what we “stand” for, and thereby be the recipients of Hashem's blessings for health and happiness.

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