Today’s Torah portion contains one of the most inspiring passages in the whole Torah. It’s Moses’ last day on earth and he pleads with the people he has lead for more than 40 years (Deut. 30:15, 19): R’ey natati l’fanecha hayom et ha-chayim v’et hatov,v’et hamavet v’et hara…uvacharta bachayim (See—I have placed before you today life and good, death and evil…choose life!).
In lieu of a sermon this Shabbos—you will be hearing many sermons in the next few days and weeks—I’d like to read to you a commentary on this passage from Rabbi David Begoun of the L’Chaim Center in the Chicago area titled: “A Letter from Gd: A few things to keep in mind as Rosh Hashanah draws near” (www.aish.com). Now I’ve heard of people writing a letter to Gd, but the idea of getting a letter from Gd intrigued me:
My precious child,
I want to wish you a shana tova, a sweet new year, and share with you a few things that I think you need you to know.
When I look at you I see something very different than what you see when you look in the mirror. You see yourself as you are now. But when I look at you I see who you can become. My primary goal is to help you grow from where you are now to where I know you can be.
Sometimes you are already challenging yourself and pushing yourself to become that person that I created you to become. So I just watch, with great nachas, and gently guide you in that direction. I orchestrate the events and experiences of your day-to-day life to ensure the maximum possibility of your achievement of that goal.
Other times, I have to present you with challenges and hurdles in order to convert your potential greatness into actualized excellence. I know that those moments are sometime painful, but if I don’t challenge you then you will never actualize your potential. Please remember that I am closer to you during those moments than I am at any other time.
I want to tell you about one of my most important employees. He is the V.P. of Human Development. His name is Yetzer hara, the evil inclination, and he works for me 365 days a year, 24/7. The Yetzer hara gets a bad rap, but he is really your best friend. If it weren’t for him, you would remain a nobody forever. I have empowered him to provide you with constant assaults and to approach you with a never ending barrage of creative tactics, but they only come to challenge you to grow and improve yourself. The Yetzer hara and I have only one goal for each encounter you have with him: we both want you to overpower him and show him what you are made of. Of course, once you do that I send him back with a more difficult obstacle to overcome, because that’s how you really become great.
Here’s some good advice: Speak to me. Often. And don’t think I only understand Hebrew. I understand every language there is. So speak to me in your own language. And you don’t have to wait to be in a synagogue; speak to me any time of day, no matter what you’re doing – when you’re driving your car, when you’re taking a walk. Speak to me before you go to sleep. And most of all, speak to me on Shabbos. I am always available and I really am a good listener. In fact, I understand you better than anyone else (even yourself) because you are mine and I made you. So don’t be shy, don’t feel awkward; just pour your heart out to me and I promise I will respond.
And take advantage of Shabbat; it’s My special gift for you. Turn off your phone, computer, iPad and all those other gadgets and use the quiet time to celebrate your most important relationships: your relationship with Me, your relationship with yourself and your relationships with those special people that you are closest to. Even if you can’t carve out the whole 25 hours for this purpose, at least use some of the day to connect to me.
I will let you in on a secret: I am talking to you all the time but I speak in a faint whisper. You have so many competing sounds, a cacophony of noises going on around you that drown me out. Find some quiet time on Shabbos and listen. You will be amazed what you hear.
Don’t try to go through the journey of life on your own. I want you to find a mentor who can guide you and teach you and show you how to find Me and connect to Me. When you find that person, cling to him or her and don’t let go. Make them teach you and guide you and take their advice to heart.
In addition, find someone to take this journey with. It is a lot easier to make this trek if you have someone with whom to share the journey. You can both make sure you are staying on target and heading toward your goals.
If you can, make the effort to come to the place on earth where My presence can most be felt. Spend some time in My city Jerusalem and imbibe the wisdom that oozes from the ancient walls there.
Rosh Hashanah is coming up. It’s the birthday of mankind when I revise the plan of human history and write the next act for the year to come. Think about what major role you want to take. I am willing to let you play any role that you are committed to play. So think big and create a passionate vision of who you want to be this coming year. And on Rosh Hashanah, instead of counting the number of pages left in the Machzor, talk to Me and tell Me what role you want to play.
The Book of Life will be open on that day and I am putting the pen in your hands. Choose life.
Your Father in Heaven who believes in you and loves you unconditionally.
What else is there left to say except, Chativa v’chatima tova, may we all be written and sealed in the Book of Life for the coming year. Amen!