Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Nitzavim
To dedicate this lesson

The Stop and Go of Teshuva


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Elul 21 5780
As so often happens, this week we will read the double-portion of Nitzavim and Vayelech. Could there be a more appropriate intro to the Yamim Noraim?! In fact, the very title of our Torah reading says it all.

Note that there is a seeming paradox at work here: Nitzavim means "to stand" in place, while "Vayelech" means "to go." Now, how can you stop and go at the very same time?

My Rebbe explained with a clever metaphor, a wonderful example of how we can learn from all things in life. He said that when we drive, there are green lights that mean Go, and there are red lights which signify Stop. But at certain intersections, there are lights which are red - to prevent us from traveling forward - accompanied by green arrows, allowing - or even directing us - to turn in another direction.

This is the essential idea of Nitzavim-Vayelech & the road to Teshuva. We can never stop moving, for if we cease to move, we die. But there are times when we must stop in the way that we are going and turn to a different path. There is a moment in our lives when we come to realize that the Divine Arrow is pointing us in another direction and nudging us to pursue a different way. This is the unique, priceless moment of Teshuva, a grand opportunity for change and self-improvement that should not be lost on us.

In life, inertia often takes the wheel and we get stuck on the same route, day after day, year after year. It's a great challenge to be able to break our routine & to take that road less traveled - even when we know Hashem is at the end of the journey. The Shofar, I suggest, is a kind of spiritual horn that beeps (like the impatient drivers behind us!) signaling that we must put the pedal to the metal and get ourselves going.

Here's hoping that all of us buckle our seat belts and steer our neshamot to a year of Health, Blessing and Peace. If we are focused on coming closer to G-d, we will never lose our WAZE.
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