During this contemplative month of Elul that leads up to the High Holy Days, we turn inward and consider our relationship with G-d, with others and with ourselves. In this week’s double Torah portion, Nitzavim-Vayeilech, Moses gives his final of four speeches in Deuteronomy as the Israelites prepare to enter the land of Israel without him, and Joshua rises up as the new leader of the Israelites.
In preparing for this transfer of power, Moses instructs the Israelites on how to obey God’s commandments (Deuteronomy 30:11-14).
Moses tells the Israelites “v’lo rachokah hi,” that observing God’s commandments is not far from us, it is not beyond us.
“Lo bashamayim hi,” it is not in the heavens, so you don’t need to send someone among you to go search for it.
“Mayayver layam hi,” and it is not beyond the sea, so you don’t need to send someone out across the sea to bring it to you.
“Ki karov aleicha,” Torah is always close to you, in your hearts.
During this spiritual time when so many of us are searching and seeking more meaning in our lives, this reminder that Torah and our connection with G-d are not out of reach, but rather within each of our hearts, feels calming and reassuring.
This parsha also reminds us that it is never too late to seek a life imbued with Torah and mitzvot, in whatever ways that manifest in our personal observance; we can start today — hayom.
The word hayom, “today,” appears six times in this parsha alone.
So often we ask ourselves, “When will things get better? When will my life turn around? When will I find happiness?” We think that once we feel successful, we know it all, we feel settled in our personal and professional lives, then we will finally feel whole and complete. Parshat Nitzavim is a reminder that happiness, goodness and groundedness are not as far away as they may seem; v’lo rachokah hi — it is not beyond us or out of reach.
Even when we feel hopeless, the reality is that happiness, goodness and groundedness are available to each of us hayom — today. Sometimes in our lowest moments, we doubt ourselves or question what is happening in the world around us. In these moments, obeying G-d’s mitzvot can feel like a distant ideal. It is upon us to turn our hearts and minds toward G-d, and find gratitude for the good of today, even if it’s something as small as the joy of your children’s first day of school or spending quality time with a dear friend. Hayom.
Leading up to these Days of Awe, I invite you to consider the ways in which we seek G-d within ourselves in this season. Where are we fragile? Where are we strong? What practices will support us on our spiritual journeys? Who will help us discover the goodness and G-dliness that already dwells within each of us?
As we prepare to enter 5784, I wish each of you a year of goodness, gladness and peace. May you find these small moments of light in each day — hayom. Shabbat Shalom, and an early Shana Tova! PJC
Cantor Stefanie Greene is the conductor of the Pittsburgh branch of the HaZamir International Jewish Youth Choir. This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish Clergy