Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Shoftim) Dream On!

Yesterday was the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul, a significant month regarding our preparations for the High Holidays. During this month and continuing through Yom Kippur, a period of 40 days, our leader Moshe was in Heaven pleading and securing G-d’s atonement for the Jewish nation’s sin of the golden calf. The nation also spent this time repenting for the sin.

It is not coincidental that the process of repentance spans a forty day period.

Our Sages teach us that from the conception of a child until the 40th day one can pray for the gender of the child. However, after forty days, the embryo is a living entity whose gender has been determined and praying to change the gender is of no value.

There are many examples in the Torah which allude to the number forty. I.e. it rained for 40 days during Noah’s flood and it took 40 years for the Jews to enter into Israel.

Thus, the forty day period that we are currently in possesses a feature and significance of renewal. This process is called Teshuvah – repentance – taking stock of our spiritual condition.

Throughout this time we are encouraged to forge a deeper bond with the Almighty and to seek to repair damage in our relationships with our fellow man.

One may wonder, “How do I know that after I estranged myself from the Almighty that He will be interested in my overtures of coming closer to Him?” The answer can be found in the word Elul which is an acrostic for the well-known verse in Song of Songs – Ani Ledodi V’Dodi Li – I am to My Beloved and My Beloved is to me.

During the Elul season, we are guaranteed that G-d has a special interest in our renewed relationship with Him.

Rabbi Noach Weinberg o.b.m. would quip, “Elul can be analogous to a presidential election year. It is during this period, a meeting with the president is much simpler.”

The great Chidah said, “There is nothing that stands in the way of one’s will.”

The Chidushai Harim questions this statement, for after all, there are certain things that we wish or dream of doing but they become obstructed or impossible to attain.

The Chidushai Harim explains that the Chidah didn’t make mention of performing that which a person wishes. All he says is “There is nothing that stands in the way of one’s will.” This concerns the possibilities, aspirations and dreams that go through the mind and thoughts of a person. This can be almost limitless; for the mind has no boundaries.

The Torah tells us, U’Bikashtem es Hashem” – to continually seek a deeper level of appreciation and connection with the Almighty.

This means that even if we know ourselves and know that our current circumstances will not allow us to reach the highest levels of observance, it should not hinder our thoughts, desires or wishes of attaining those levels. For, “There is nothing that stands in the way of one’s will.” G-d takes our mindset, aspirations and goals into account as well.

In this week’s Parsha the Torah details the laws of a Jewish king. The Talmud teaches us that a king, being the most honorable person, does not have the authority to forgo on his honor.

A question raised is if this is so, how is it possible for The King of all kings, the Almighty, to atone for our sins? After all, a sin disregards the King’s honor, and atonement appears to be an act of forgoing the King’s honor.

An answer offered is that yes, G-d is our King. However, in the Torah he calls us Bonim – His children. This is also apparent from the Avinu Malkainu prayer. We say Avinu – our Father - Malkainu – our King. The Talmud teaches us that a parent has permission to forgo their honor.

It is thus a great favor to us that G-d considers Himself as our loving Father, for He thereby authorizes Himself to affectionately respond to our repentance and forgive and cleanse us of our misdeeds!
Wishing you a blessed, uplifting and peaceful Shabbos!

Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family