Being a parent during the High Holy Day season is not exactly a walk in the park. We survived the beginning of the school year and we are getting ready to host meals, lead services, or just survive the holidays in general. As a parent of a newly minted Kindergartner at Schechter, these past few weeks have been hectic and amazing at the same time. Our experience at Schechter so far has filled our hearts with joy as we begin this exciting learning journey with our daughter in this remarkable community.
This week’s parashah is Nitzavim. Moses continues his speech preparing the Israelites for the trip of a lifetime-their entry into the Promised Land. While Moses is not going to join them on this journey due to his past transgressions, he still fulfills his responsibility as the leader of the people and does all he can to instill the values, lessons, and guidance that the Israelites need to be successful in this next phase of their individual and communal lives.
Moses teaches, “See I set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity […] I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life-if you and your offspring would live-by loving the Eternal your God, heeding God’s commands, and holding fast [to God]. For thereby you shall have life and shall long endure upon the soil that the Eternal swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give to them.” [Deuteronomy 30:15, 30:19-20]
What this text teaches us is that we have a choice-it is up to us to decide how our lives and experiences are going to pan out. If we choose life, we will yield a life of blessings. If we do not choose life, we will have a more difficult road ahead. Moses teaches us that the most powerful gift God has given us is the power to choose. God is not mandating what our lives are going to be like, God has given us the ability to choose our own path, make our own decisions, and as a result yield the (hopefully) positive consequences. It is up to us to choose our intention, our hopes, and our attitude towards new experiences ahead. I remember growing up my father would look at me every year as school started and say, “You can be whoever you want to be this year. It is a new year. Be you,” or in the words of the Torah, “choose life,” choose to live, choose to make good decisions, choose to be the best you!
I remember two weeks ago standing with my now seasoned Kindergartner as we were about to get into the car for the first day of school. I, like Moses (probably our only similarity) felt nervous as I was not going to be physically going on this journey with her. She, like the Israelites, was on the edge of a major life transition-a completely new experience that she had never experienced before, in a place she had heard a lot about but never been. I looked at those big excited and nervous eyes and told her that she was ready for this next step. I did not cry (which I was shocked about, and for anyone who knows me this is quite the accomplishment) because I knew as her mom and her guide that I have done everything I could to prepare her for the unknown of what lies ahead. Suffice it to say she is a walking Schechter advertisement as all she talks about is how awesome school is and does not understand why anyone would go anywhere else.
As we begin preparing for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (which is also featured in this week’s parashah) let us remember the significance of having the right to choose our path. Will we choose a year of blessing and hope? Will we do all we can to ensure this year is a great year? The power is ours, as the parashah teaches. I continue each and every day to learn from the lessons of Nitzavim when I drop my Kindergartner at the bus and worry “will someone sit with her?” “Will she feel left out at recess?” “What if she is bullied?” Like the Israelites, she has been taught all of the tools she needs to embark on this exciting new journey in a new place. She has been given the tools and is ready to embrace whatever Kindergarten brings. Like the Israelites, she is surrounded by a community of people (the Schechter community) that is there to support her along the journey.
Wishing you and your family Shanah Tova u’Metukah, a Happy and Sweet New Year!