Parshat Vayelech & Yom Kippur

Torah Reading for Week of September 9-15, 2018

“The Light Within the Darkness”
by Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, PhD, AJRCA President

Though we often read in the newspaper and social media many stories and facts that lead us to despair about the human condition and its seeming lack of progress over these past years, this is not the conclusion drawn forth by the Torah. While it is important to be vigilant about the abuse of power that stems from lack of ethical behavior, greed gone astray, or simple insecure meanness; while it is important to oppose injustice and work for the elevation of opportunity for all in this world, it is equally important to have faith in the promise of G-d’s Covenant to the Jewish people and overcome the despair that separates us from upward movement and consciousness.


Many who despair are simply idealists, seekers of perfection who through disappointment and lack of resolution become embittered that their will and expectations are not met in the world. A little frustration and dashed hopes can be a painful shattering experience. However, we must always remember that this IS a world of frustration and limitation. (“We are free in fantasy but limited in reality.” Rabbi Yisrael Salanter), and still proceed with courage to build a better world in spite of obstacles.


We must look at life as an evolving process that we do have some control over, if we persist in encountering the everyday reality that confronts us in and heroic ways. It is in the simple encounter with the every day that we gain our dignity and attain the heroic. Not getting caught up in the overwhelming big picture, but doing everything that we do in the best way we can is what builds a better world and inspires others.


There are so many heroes in our lives, and the fact that we can recognize them makes me optimistic for the future. It tells me that each of us has the capacity to recognize the image of G-d in others, to recognize what is true and beautiful and this means that we each contain the image of G-d within. It gives me great faith. The great and humble teachers, the artists, the serious craftspeople, the communal leaders, my brothers and sisters and loved ones all bring inspiration to my heart.


And this is the message of Yom Kippur, the day that gives us reconciliation with G-d and our people. It is a day of joy. We are happy in the security of our faith in G-d’s compassion. The gift of Teshuva, the desire to attain greater unity, self-love, love of others, and closeness to G-d expressed within a community is a wonderful gift bestowed upon us by our tradition. It is a time of renewal, joy, and out of the joy, a happy chosen return home to the unity of the self and G-d.


What we must each remember on Yom Kippur is that faith and courage are requisites in our tradition. The narrow-mindedness stemming from fear that leads one to view whatever is outside a particular nation as ugly and defiling is a phase of the frightful darkness that undermines every effort to reach the state of spiritual development whose dawn is awaited by every sensitive spirit. The true teaching of the highest principles of our Torah is love for all individuals regardless of differences in views on religion, or differences in race or culture.


It is only a person rich in love for people that brings the light of G-d into the world. We must learn to recognize the light of the good in all people (even though it is sometimes hidden) for it is through this perception that we shall all be uplifted.
May this be a year where the Light is restored from the darkness, through our return to our inner calling, our responsibility, and our faith that we can make a difference with our strong tradition, community and G-d’s support. V’Chain Yehi Ratzon!