2017-08-16 / Religion Column

‘My dear, you look a head taller…’

RABBI EPHRAIM EPSTEIN
Congregation Sons of Israel

Parashat Re’eh
Deut. 11:26-16:17

It’s always an adjustment when the kids arrive home from sleep-away summer camp. The after camp routine includes the unpacking, the piles of laundry to wash and sort and the readjustment to life at home without Night Activities. Of course there are doctors’ appointments to go to and shopping for new clothing and fancy new school supplies. To me, the most striking moment at the time of the arrival home from camp is when the child walks through the door and we exclaim, “My how you have grown, you must be a head taller.”

There’s something about the food in camp, the exercise, and the long sunny days that seem to trigger a growth spurt for so many children while they are away. The amazing thing, of course, is that the child herself does not realize it until she comes home and her family points it out.

It’s a fact of life that after 18 years old, we stop growing vertically, but throughout our entire lives we are meant to grow emotionally and spiritually (not just at the waist). Many times we do not realize just how much we have grown. Life is a series of challenges one after another. Just as our father Avraham was tested throughout his life, so too are we tested throughout ours. Like a teenager who arrives home from camp, we may not notice the growth we achieved over the last months. It is worthwhile to do an inner search to see how we have grown or not.

We are going to bless the new month of Elul this Shabbat, which means that Rosh Hashanah will arrive in approximately 30 days. Now is the time for us to take a good look at ourselves and consider how we have grown over the last year. Are we a head taller or not? What strides have I made interpersonally with family, colleagues and friends, or what strides should I aim to make as I prepare for the High Holidays? What about my Jewish commitments? What Mitzvoth am I engaged in, and which Mitzvoth would I like to be more engaged in? If indeed I am a head taller than last year, great; but if not, now is the time to strategize how to get there.

The Parsha we read this week, Re’eh, begins with the verse 11:26: Behold and see that I (G-d) have placed before you the potential for blessing or a curse—the blessing is a result of your commitment to Torah and Mitzvoth, and the curse is a result of discarding the ways of G-d and Torah.

G-d implores us to take stock of our lives and choices and grow taller. We are fortunate that built into the Jewish calendar is our annual month of introspection in preparation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Before we know it, we will be listening to the Shofar on the Day of Judgment. Will we be a head taller this year than last year? The answer is up to us.

Shabbat Shalom! 

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