These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Dvar Torah – Parsha Netzavim/Rosh Hashana

Posted on September 19, 2012 by Eric Feldman

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What would you do if you were greater than you are?

In Judaism, hypothetical situations are occasionally used in order to put ourselvest in a certain mindset – for example, on Passover, we imagine what it would have been like to have been slaves in Egypt.  And now, with these weeks of transformation upon us, I believe that a key to our success is imagining ourselves as greater than we are.

In a recent session of a class that we had on prayer this past week, we were discussing the Avinu Malkeinu prayer, one of the highlights of the services during the High Holidays.  The major focus of the prayer is that we are asking G-d for forgiveness for past wrongdoings and providing us with a great outlook for the year to come, and includes specific requests of erasing records of our guilt, recalling us with a favorable memory, providing us with success and support, being compassionate, and more.  But how can we possibly expect to receive these things from G-d if we aren’t doing these things ourselves, by looking upon others with a favorable memory, being compassionate to others, and more?  The message here is that regardless of how well we pray, G-d will relate to us in the way that we relate to others.

But do we need external help to do this?  No.  As said in Parsha Netzavim, it is not up in heaven, so we do not need to go up there, and it’s not across the sea, so we don’t need to go there either.  Rather, like it says in the portion, the matter is very near to us.  We have within us at this very moment everything we need to do to do what we know we need to.

So, during these ten days and onward, when things look difficult and you don’t feel up to the task, just remember – what would you do if you were greater than you were?