Very soon yet another year is done;
We approach the final moment of the year,
Twilight of the final day, the final night.
In the twilight between one year and another –
One picture after another, one vision after another,
From the entire year that has passed.
One picture after another of what was,
One vision after another of what should and could have been,
And one dream after another of tomorrow, of the future, of what will be.
(Rav Avraham Chen, “Be’malchut Ha’yehadut”)
During these days we are busy conducting a process of introspection in preparation for Rosh Hashanah, asking ourselves some critical questions: How did we behave over the course of this past year? Did we act as we had decided we should, staying perfectly on course? Did we act as we truly should?
Our central challenge in this world is to look correctly at what happens here, to understand that not the United Nations, not the government, not what others will say – and, “le’havdil,” not even what other Jews will say – none of this has determined anything over the previous year. Only our behavior. The One who established the laws of nature dictated events based on our level of Torah and mitzvot. And when this outlook on world events is clear before our eyes at all times, there is no doubt that our conduct will change. For there is but a single, practical result of this faith perspective on the world: if our conduct determines everything that happens in the world, and, at the same time, if we can arrive at teshuva with but this single thought – then we bear the immediate responsibility to perform the basic, elementary level of teshuva, the level that the Torah testifies to be “in our mouths and in our hearts to perform.” And the main thing is never to despair from doing teshuva due to the vast distance that yet remains before we reach the ultimate level of repentance.
Rav Dessler zt”l drew an analogy to a car driving along the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, and the driver wishes to get to Jerusalem. The very first step in this process is to turn the car towards the direction of Jerusalem. If the car would suddenly turn around towards the direction of Tel Aviv, it will never get to Jerusalem. One must always turn to face the proper direction; this is the first, indispensable step, without which one cannot ever make any progress. How does one turn to face the proper direction? This is that first, initial step of repentance – the decision that from today I stride forth along the path that leads upward. When a person proceeds in the proper direction, then it really does not make all that much difference where the car is currently located, or at what speed it drives. It will, ultimately, reach its destination – the highest level of teshuva.
Although we are but moments away from Rosh Hashanah, and it appears as though we cannot change a thing in such a short time span, this is the time to begin to change. The judgment begins on Rosh Hashanah, but the decree is issued on Yom Kippur. In order to tip the scales in our favor, let us begin the process of change and take it upon ourselves, “beli neder,” to improve ourselves just a little bit from what we were the previous year; to daven a little better, to concentrate properly on one beracha in the shemoneh esrei that until now we have failed to concentrate upon; to add five minutes a day of Torah learning. All these beginnings are well within the reach of each and every one of us, and, most importantly, they ensure that the direction we face is upward.
“For this matter is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to achieve it.”
(Based on Rav Nebenzal’s sichot for Rosh Hashanah)
We anxiously look forward to a year of good deeds, friendship, and full cooperation together.
Itai Klein and the members of the Kollel