“You are standing today, all of you, before Gd: your heads, your tribes, your elders and your officers–all the People of Israel: your small children, your women, and your convert who is in the midst of your camp, from the hewer of your wood, to the drawer of your water” (Deuteronomy 29:9-10)
These are the opening words of this week’s parsha, parshat Nitzavim. I write these words as thousands of Israelis and world leaders are gathered here in Jerusalem to pay final tribute and respect to Shimon Peres this morning. We are in the final moments of the year, with Rosh Hashana beginning right after Shabbat. This confluence of events is astounding and gives the chills to witness a moment of grand importance. For some of us it is a precursor and warm-up for the great coronation ceremony that is Rosh Hashanah. For others of us, it is a moving moment of unity, calling us to respect a life of dedication and belief in the unbelievable. It is truly an inspiring moment.
The last of the founding fathers of the State of Israel has left the world, leaving the continued work to the coming generations. In the parsha, Moses is speaking to the entire nation gathered together–some even interpret it that it is a reference to the entirety of the Jewish People, including the future generations, including us today. It is powerful how Moses speaks both to the leaders and the simplest laborers in the same way–they are all part of the story. I am inspired and feel the responsibility to see myself standing with the rest of the Jewish People, and even with the rest of the world, as we accept upon ourselves the coming year to be a little better, a little more caring, a little more aware of those that may be different from us, and to believe that anything is possible!
Shlomo Carlebach used to teach about the power of unity through a parabel of clapping:
The Baal Shem teaches that when a person is happy they automatically clap their hands. This is because joy is spreading throughout the entire body. But do you know what it is that I’m really doing when clapping my hands? A person is literally bringing the left and right to love each other. Let me explain. The right (hand) usually tells the left (hand): “Listen, you know you’re a leftist. I don’t want to have anything to do with you, don’t you see, we are right.” And the left (hand) says to the right: “Who needs you? Who even cares! You are so right, you’re always doing something good. Who needs you and your mitzvot. I have no strength for you. Why not face it—you’re so boring, that we are really the ones who are right.” So the right doesn’t speak to the left and left doesn’t speak to the right. But when you clap hands, you are bringing right and left together. The right comes close to the left and says “Hey, you’re precious after all. Maybe you are really right.” And the left says to the right: “I love you. Hey maybe we were wrong.” So the left and the right learn together from each other just for a little bit. So let’s sing and pray that the Holy One stir the hands of our people so that we recognize that we are only one holy and sanctified nation.”
Today, it is not important whether you agree with Shimon Peres or not. It is important to recornize how astounding it is to see the impact of one man, and how his legacy has brought together so many voices and people from around the world. May we be blessed on this shabbat in preparation for Rosh Hashanah, to learn to seek peace with a little more dedication. Peace between brothers and sisters. Peace between cousins. Peace between husbands and wives. Peace bewteen parents and children. Peace within ourselves.
May the Source of all Life grant us peace in the shabbat of peace.