Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Nitzavim
To dedicate this lesson

Gotta Hand It To You!


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

"For this commandment (to return to Hashem) is neither in Heaven – for who could ascend there to get it? – nor is it across the sea – for who could go to the other side of the ocean to take it?! Rather, it is very close to you – in your mouth & in your heart – to just do it!"

Hmm, what a fascinating statement our Sedra makes! Teshuva, returning our neshamot to a holier, more pristine state is not some far-off, pie-in-the-sky, inaccessible & impossible dream. It is right within our grasp. But just how do we grab it?! How do we access this overarching fundamental of spiritual survival?

I puzzled over this for a long time. And then, with a little help from above, I found the answer. I was reviewing the Amida of Yom Kippur’s closing service, Neilah, when I came upon the following verse from the Amida's repetition:

"Oh, G-d, extend Your hand to me & accept my Teshuva; forgive my wrong-doing, turn to me & do me good."

Suddenly, it all made sense to me.

I went to my neighbor’s house. Some time ago, we had had a bit of a dispute. He maintained that some papers from my yard had fallen over our fence into his yard, & he wanted me to pick them up. I told him that the papers were not from my yard, but probably had blown into his property from the street. Pretty petty stuff, right? But it created a rift between us, & we hadn’t said more than a few hurried "hellos" to one another for quite some time.

So I walked over to his house & extended my hand to him. "Shalom," I said, "I just wanted to wish you Shana Tova & say that I’m glad you are my neighbor!" And now, we’re like best friends & talk all the time! He even helped my clean out my gutters before the last rainy season.

I knew another person who had disagreed with something I had written (shocking, I know!). And so, after having had words, we avoided each other. So I approached him & extended my hand. "Just want to say that I hope you have a great year with lots of bracha!"

Goodbye, uncomfortable feeling; hello friendship!

How simple! How easy! Just extending a hand, & the past is erased, & a brand new start begins.

Whenever there is a "blockage" between Jews, the "body" politic of Am Yisrael is injured, & must somehow be repaired. When we manage to finally fix it, not only is it a great feeling of relief and accomplishment, but no doubt in Heaven, a Divine hand is being extended to us as well.
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