This past week, I wrote about the mitzvah of hakaras hatov and the importance of expressing recognition in all of our dealings. It is therefore most appropriate that I offer a special thank you to PTF co-presidents Mrs. Chani Benjaminson and Mrs. Felicia Haas and the entire PTF board for making this year’s bash a wonderful success. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the bash as I was in Lawrence, NY, at a most successful fundraising reception for the school hosted by Dr. Ernest and Mrs. Sara Isaacson. I also thank the Isaacsons for their warmth and hospitality to the school.
Since this is the final newsletter before Rosh Hashanah, let us focus on this time of preparation for the Yom Hadin. Every year as Rosh Hashanah approaches, we accept upon ourselves kabbalos, resolutions, for the New Year. We have all experienced the frustration of not following through on our goals in the way we anticipated and the disappointment of feeling we are right back where we started. Our evil inclination would love for us to become despondent and stop trying, but instead we need to locate some modicum of success in self-improvement and use it as a springboard for future accomplishment.
This week’s parsha speaks of a new treaty between Hashem and Klal Yisrael. Many of the commentaries ask why we are signing a new treaty with Hashem when we already have a treaty that dates back to Har Sinai. One commentary explains that the treaty that was made at this time was not a new treaty; rather, it was a renewal agreement. Often, mitzvos that we perform on a regular basis become rote and are performed out of habit alone. Parshas Nitzavim, the parsha read before Rosh Hashanah, reminds us that our goal should not to be to continually find new kabbalos, but actually to revitalize those that are existing with a hischadshus, renewal, that makes their performance more meaningful. In fact, there is a hint to this in the verse in Selichos: “Hashiveinu Hashem eilecha venashuva CHADESH YAMEINU K’KEDEM.” We are asking Hashem to return us with teshuva by renewing our performance of mitzvos.
On February 3, 1999, Mario A. Zacchini, the last surviving member of the original human cannonballs, died. Zacchini was launched explosively, at a speed of 90 mph, from a cannon across a circus tent into a net, usually three times a day. He often quipped, “Flying isn’t the hard part; landing in the net is.”
The yetzer hara is a master in making us feel like our resolutions are inadequate and inefficient. He convinces us to accept too much upon ourselves so that we may completely rectify all of our character defects in one year, or even in one week! So we take the plunge from our high horse and end up crashing into the pavement, bruising our self-esteem and further convincing ourselves that we will never change. Unlike that of Zacchini, Hashem’s loving arms are the greatest safety net in the universe. Hashem lauds us for our efforts, Hashem praises us for our successes and Hashem values each and every step we take to become closer to Him.
As Rosh Hashanah approaches, we can certainly look to new kabbalos and stringencies, but at the same time we must realize that refreshing our commitments to Hashem forms a safety net to protect us.
I wish the entire PHDS and NEAT family a kesiva vachasima tova! May we all find accomplishment in our life mission to constantly improve and draw closer to our Creator.
Have a wonderful Shabbos and a good Yom Tov!
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman