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Wednesday, February 28, 2024 - 19 Adar I 5784
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Stop and Go
Few experiences are as frustrating as being stuck in traffic that has come to a standstill. You are on the road, so by definition you are on the go, or at least want to be on the go. If you wanted to stay put, you’d be sitting in your living room, or at least camped out in some picturesque park. Nobody is interested in spending their recreational time stuck in a slow moving vehicle.

The two Torah portions that we read this Shabbat bring to mind these two opposing forces – stability and movement. The portion of Nitzavim means “standing,” while Vayelech means “to go.” Nitzavim does not denote mere standing, but standing firm. Yet these two parshiyot are read together in the same week, becoming in essence one parshah.

The explanation for this is that our divine service consists of both these aspects. On the one hand there must be firmness and steadfastness, and on the other hand a constant movement, to strive higher and higher, to achieve ever more ambitious goals. The process of growth depends on having a secure, stable base from which to climb. Far from being opposites, the two concepts require each other to be successful.

The parshiyot of Nitzavim and Vayelech are always read together on the final Shabbat of the year, immediately preceding Rosh Hashanah. Unlike every other month, we do not recite a blessing in the synagogue this Shabbat to bless the new month. Rather, this Shabbat G-d Himself blesses the new month, and with this power we bless the following eleven months.

And in this we see reflected the two themes of Nitzavim and Vayelech – G-d grants us His strength and amazing power to stand firm in the face of all obstacles. But having received it, it is up to us to move forward – Vayelech – in the course of the coming year.

The two themes of Nitzavim and Vayelech can also be found in our divine service on Rosh Hashanah. The teachings of kabbalah explain that there are two primary motivators – desire and pleasure. Desire is more of an external force – to want to acquire or achieve something outside of ourselves. Taanug, pleasure, is more internal – to reach a state of inner contentment or peace, which is not necessarily apparent on the outside. In fact, the ultimate taanug is to “find pleasure with ourselves”—to be happy with who we are, without any need for external approval or possessions.

On Rosh Hashanah, when we crown G-d as our King, we need both these forces – to arouse in G-d the pleasure of being our King, as well as the ratzon, the desire to actively rule over us. The way to evoke these desires in G-d is through our service on Rosh Hashanah, which has two aspects, “child” and “servant.” As children, we bring out in G-d His pleasure in simply being with us. As servants, we fulfill the desires of our Master and thus draw out His active rule over us.

As we read the Torah portion of Nitzavim-Vayelech before Rosh Hashanah, this will lead immediately into a new year filled with stability as well as progress, a year filled with G-d’s blessing in all our endeavors, a year in which we will experience the true and complete Redemption.

Ketivah vachatimah tovah to all.

(Based on an address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Likutei Sichot vol. 29, pp. 173-181)


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