Welcome to 5780! We are now in the midst of the Ten Days of Teshuvah, not only dedicated to deeper personal reflection but, also, taking those steps toward change and transformation. For some of us it might be baby steps; others, giant steps.
The Torah portion this week, Va’Yelech, begins “And he (Moses) went and spoke to the children of Israel...”. He tells the people that he is not going to lead them across the Jordon. “It is God who will go with you...”. He then tells the people to be “strong and of good courage.” In the following verses he, then, designates Joshua as the leader who will guide them. And he also tells Joshua “be strong and of good courage.”
I find these verses instructive for these days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We the people, are called to be “strong and courageous” during these days when we remember the Covenant of moral responsibility. We are called to affirm our moral strength, to what is right and compassionate. It takes “courage” to stand up for what is right. It takes courage to climb the mountain of Yom Kippur, also commemorating when the people Renewed their vows with the Creator. It takes courage to address the evils in society. It takes courage to address the demons within ourselves. It takes courage to get to know the other as our speaker this past week, Daryl Davis, has done getting to know members of the Klan.
There is no other human who can lead us. It is ultimately up to us and the Mystery of Life to find the crossing place at the river into the future Land of Promise. Leaders like Moshe, Miriam and Joshua are necessary, but they cannot lead a people that is not desirous of a better future.
This Yom Kippur we gather to remember our history, our ancestors and our value culture. We gather to celebrate our community and to gain strength from each other as we move forward into life. Together we cleanse ourselves and accept responsibility for each other. Al Khet Sheh-Khatanu L’fanekha, “for the sin which we have committed before You...”.
Life is with people and in doing Mitzvot - right actions. We strive to preserve and nurture our moral integrity as individuals and as a people. We are the guardians of our own traditions. No one else is. Judaism is not for museums.
Shanah Tovah Tikateyvu v’Teykhateymu. May we be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life. Reb David