June 14, 2024
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June 14, 2024
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Love of God and Mankind the Torah Way

No one can deny that it is often our fear of missing out, known as “FOMO,” that draws us to cultural attractions that also lead us away from abiding by our Torah values. This is a prevalent issue that often adds a great deal of strife to our relationships with family and friends. One variable in this mix is that we forget the Torah truth that all we possess, and our status in life, are exactly what and where we need to be in order to actuate the missions for which Hashem placed us in this beautiful world. The danger in positioning ourselves in this manner, via forgetting or denying these truths, is that it leads to evoking such traits as jealousy and judgmentalism. We all know that these traits are unacceptable in the eyes of God. It is because when our perspective on life is clouded by pessimism that we are vulnerable to focusing on that which we perceive is missing in our lives rather than all the gifts we possess. Additionally, we also lose sight of the fact that our unique attributes and possessions are exactly what God believes we need. We also lose sight of the fact that HaKadosh Baruch Hu values, loves and respects our individuality. We know this because our Torah teaches us that in matters of spirituality we must look “up” to God and emulate those whose state of dveikut, connection, with God is stronger. In stark contrast, in the arenas of physicality and materialism we must avoid striving for that which others possess and have confidence in our God-given assets, knowing that He gave it to us and appreciates who we are. It doesn’t, however, stop there. Our Torah also teaches us the value of introspection, when we take the time to look into ourselves and strive for spiritual/characterological growth. This is because in doing so we place ourselves in the position of working toward evolving into the best version Hashem expects us to be. Most would agree that if we take advantage of the good times as well as the challenging times, to accomplish the Godly charge of Kedoshim Tihiyu, we shall surely reap the rewards. That comes along with this shift in perspective.

Years ago, our Fair Lawn rabbi, Rabbi Benjamin Yudin, once referred to our journey of life as an “escalator” for spiritual growth. He explained the analogy of escalator, rather than elevator or staircase, for the following reason: When it comes to a staircase or elevator, we can choose to go up or down. Yet, when it comes to an escalator, if we want to move up we are restricted to selecting the “up” escalator. This is because if we accidentally choose the wrong escalator and position ourselves in the wrong direction we will surely fall. The same goes for our spiritual/characterological journeys. We cannot stop—or we will fall! The good news is that Hashem gifted us with our Torah and tefillah, whereby we can converse with Hashem on a regular basis and enlist His compassion, advice and assistance in every challenge we face. Most importantly, during this propitious time of the Yomim Noraim we are privy to a special audience with Hakadosh Baruch Hu any time and any place. As a result, He pays special attention to our bakashot and teshuva, whereby we beg for blessings, compassion and forgiveness.

My family and friends, as we approach the Yomim Noraim, no one can deny that the pandemic that continues to haunt us puts a damper on the aura of joy and anticipation with which we typically welcome in this season of hope for better things to come. Yet, I also believe that there is no better time than now to begin our upward journey on our yearly ladder of growth in all the arenas of our lives. Added to that, the timing is perfect for the opportunities of new beginnings that are expected as we welcome in a new year. It is true that our yetzer hara may be responsible for the feelings of anxiety, depression, helplessness and hopelessness evoked by COVID-19. Yet, it is just for this reason that it behooves us to take pause and give ourselves permission to enjoy and take advantage of the opportunities for growth that are so accessible in this holiday season. It is true that, for many, the plans of spending the Yomim Tovim in Eretz Yisrael or with family are dashed. Yet, all is not lost! We are still able to bring Hakadosh Baruch Hu into our lives via the aura of simchat haYom Tov! In doing so it will enable us to connect with Hakadosh Baruch Hu in a far deeper way. This is because His presence will be palpable, and the space He takes will go a long way in easing the pain of those who are missing this year. Moreover, knowing that Hashem is already positioned to respond to our tears, as well as our tefillot, teshuva and Torah, will also serve as the healing balm we all need. Most importantly, bringing the presence of Hakadosh Baruch Hu, along with accessible relatives and friends, into our lives and homes will leave little room for the negative emotions of anxiety, depression and possibly isolation to settle in and stay.

Yet, there are additional gifts in the treasure chest Hashem sends our way, to be used when we are ready to access them. These, my friends, are the Torah treasures we have access to in the parshiyot we read. While recovery from the tragedies of COVID, as well as the recent heartbreaking misfortunes that occurred in Eretz Yisrael, are difficult to understand and endure, we can lean on the messages Hashem sends our way. It is no accident that the parshiyot in Sefer Devarim offer us so much! As a young student I never understood the relevance of Sefer Bamidbar and Devarim to our current lives. Yet, in my more mature years I have been intrigued by the treasures embedded in the life lessons that are available on a weekly basis. This is particularly true in Sefer Devarim, where Bnei Yisrael are being prepared to enter the Promised Land. Indeed, in the very name of the sefer and introductory parsha, “Devarim,” we learn the import and value of our words! One thought that occurred to me is that there is a strong connection between the books of Bereishit and Devarim. This, I believe, is because just as Hashem created the world and nearly destroyed it with words, so too can His creations, whom He gifted with the power of words, also use their words in these opposing ways. As a result, both Sefer Bereishit and Sefer Devarim teach us that we must never forget that we possess the power of creation or destruction, and it is our choice in how to utilize this precious gift!

All through the Torah, but most prominently in Sefer Devarim, the above Torah truth becomes clearer with each episode of the trajectory of our people. It is also via the upward spiritual growth of our people that we learn exactly how we can position ourselves this Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and the joyous days of Sukkot. As a start, the above insights teach us why and how it is so important to begin this year with a sense of positivity that is evoked via love, appreciation, respect, simchat haTorah, simchat hachaim and simchat habriyot. Indeed, we follow the trajectory the Torah places us on: From the very beginning we learn to love and appreciate God and the gifts of family, friends, community and Torah He sends our way.

In doing so we also come to understand the importance of following the example of Hakadosh Baruch Hu and the Torah greats in the relationship we share with one another. In doing so we come to understand that there is only one path that is justified by our Torah, and that is the path paved in love, respect, appreciation and validation. When we look to God and our Torah greats as role models for the love and other positive choices we make, this goal will be easy to actuate. Let us begin the year with these positive Torah truths. At the very least we will position ourselves as partners with Hakadosh Baruch Hu in bringing us home! May this be the year when this is no longer a mission impossible! Instead we will rejoice in the impossible dream that came true!

Chag kasher v’samei’ach!


Renee Nussbaum is a practicing psychoanalyst with special training in imago relational therapy. She can be reached at: [email protected].

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