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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Nitzavim

Gotta Hand It To You!

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"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.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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