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What's next?

Thursday, 10 September, 2020 - 6:23 pm

 What’s next?  I am hearing that question all the time now.  I’m looking out of my window and seeing twilight at 11 am.  Ashes raining down from the sky, weird orange skies and darkness throughout the day.  This is the least of it.  What about the people in the actual path of the fires that are raging around us?  People who have lost their homes, had to evacuate, some barely escaping and others, unfortunately, who didn’t make it.  All of this on top of everything that has happened this year, and the question is what next?

 

Well, as always, I look to the Torah for guidance.  The Torah is “our life and the length of our days,” and in the Parsha of the week we can always find an answer to how to deal with whatever the current situation is.  I don’t think we know the answer to “why?”  But perhaps we can learn about what to do, what to look forward to and how to keep a positive attitude in the face of all the problems we are facing.

 

The Parsha this week follows very closely the warnings that Moshe gave the people.  Last week we read 98 curses! Moshe warned what would befall us if we strayed from our mission and broke our unique, miraculous bond with Hashem.  This week we read Moshe’s encouraging words: “You are all standing here today before Hashem, your leaders… and your [simple] wood-choppers water carriers.”  The word used for “standing” is not the typical “Omdim” but “Nitzavim” – also the name of the Parsha – which means standing upright and implies strength and resilience.  Rashi comments that the people were taken aback and turned pale from the curses, so Moshe immediately encouraged them, pointing out that although they had strayed in the past, they were still here.  He used the word “today,” Rashi says, to point out that just as the day gets dark and light, so too Hashem will illuminate our darkness.  The warnings and punishments are, in fact, designed to keep us going, and it is only because of Hashem’s love and caring for us, and His commitment to never give up on us, that he bothers to correct us and get us back onto the right path.

 

These words of the Torah reach out across the generations and the millennia.  Our Sages taught that the eternal meaning of the word “today” in this verse is the Great Day of Judgment – Rosh Hashana.  So the Torah is telling us that despite our failings and setbacks, we stand upright and strong on Rosh Hashana, the first day of the new year, with faith and confidence that a new day is dawning.  Kabbalah teaches that there is not just an endless repetitive cycle in the world.  Each year on Rosh Hashana a new Divine light is drawn into the world, a beam of light (so to speak) that has never been revealed before and is from a higher spiritual source than anything we have ever had previously  On this great day, the Torah is telling us to stand upright and confident in Hashem’s positive judgment because He is the ultimate merciful judge and wants the best for us.

 

So does this sound Pollyanna?  Forget about everything that’s going on and just smile?  No, that’s not it.  We believe in the power of prayer and good deeds, and we also believe in the power of faith.  Faith carries a great reward in itself.  When a person recognizes the power Hashem has to change our situation for the better in the blink of an eye, when a person who is challenged “sees” the salvation as if it has happened already because of his or her faith in Hashem, Hashem rewards this faith with the outcome that we need.

 

So what’s next?  Faith, hope, confidence, prayer and supplication, but with joy and positivity, correction of our mistakes and positive resolutions, but most of all confidence and faith.  In just over a week we will approach Hashem on the day of Rosh Hashana, whether outdoors at Shul or wherever we may be, and pray for a new year.  As Rashi says, the day turns dark but then lights up.  It does not have to be the same stuff continuing and it won’t.  We need collectively to stand up strong with confidence and faith and expect Hashem to usher in a new year filled with hope and blessings, peace and tranquility, abundance and growth materially and spiritually.  May the new year be filled with blessings coming one after the other so that we will be asking “what next?” in the positive sense.  What is the next blessing that we are going to enjoy?  And of course the greatest blessing of all will be when all darkness is dispelled with the new era of Mashiach!


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