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Nitzavim Vayelech Haazinu Beracha

By: Rav David Milston

Moments before Rosh HaShanah 5775 arrives at our doorstep "Nitzavim" we stand still. We look back at the year that has past. We remember that we stood in this exact same place this time last year with hope, with prayer, optimistically anticipating 5774. And as we look back at the year that was, we realize how crucial these days really were this time last year, and how essential they are right now. If we understand that our application and intent over the next two weeks can affect our entire future, as individuals and as a nation, then our seriousness and intensity will increase enormously, and we will experience a Rosh HaShanah that we have never had before.

This is not just a Yom Tov, it is Rosh HaShanah. Once again we will crown Almighty God as King, not for His sake, but for our own. And as we crown God as King, and if we do so with absolute honesty and belief, then we will know that everything is in His hands, He will decide the fate of the year 5775. The next few weeks are so important; we must work hard in order to move forward at least to a degree the future is in our hands.

We have absolutely no way of knowing why things happen the way they do. And we all know only too well, that there are many occasions that we pray with all our heart but to no avail man plans, God laughs. The Ribbono shel olam has His agenda, but that does not mean that we have no say. Our lives are not a fait accompli - we may not be in control, but we have what to do in our lives, we have what to ask of our King. He is waiting for us HaMelech BaSadeh let's go out towards Him.

This time last year, our dear friend and colleague, Uri Berman, was working hard as always at the Midrasha. He had no idea that he would not be with us this year. He had dreams, aspirations, family, everything to live for - but it was not to be. The Almighty wanted him back in Heaven, and in just five months our Uri fell sick and passed away to the world of truth. It is so hard for us all to be here without him, he is so dearly missed.

This time last year Naftali Frankel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar, were three regular serious religious teenagers slowly but surely finding their paths in life. They were not to know that a year later they would be household names around the Western world having been abducted and murdered by evil terrorists. Now they rest in peace in the true world, but they have left behind courageous families who will have to live the rest of their lives without them.

This time last year there were 67 soldiers who were serving their homeland in the Israeli Defence Forces men of all ranks, living the dream of the return to Zion modern day Maccabim. All of these heroes now serve in the utopian army of God in the most special place in Heaven set aside only for those who give their lives for their people.

The events of the last four months, have once again reminded me how much I need the Almighty, how much we all depend on Him our Father, our King.

Obviously it goes without saying that many unbelievably good things have happened this year too, both on a micro and macro level. So many semachot in the Midreshet Harova family; over three thousand missiles were fired at our country this year, with relatively few casualties. To ignore the hand of God in such instances is close to heresy.

So we stand Nitzavim we contemplate; we realize that enormous undecipherable events are happening in the world on a daily basis; and we realize that these are important days, possibly more important than the days of creation. And we are here - we see, we hear, but we do not fully understand. But we cannot stand still.

Time does not stand still. And while we stand, contemplating, we almost immediately begin to move forward Vayeilech. We move onwards remembering the past and taking it into our future. Not, Heaven forbid, in a despairing and depressive manner, but with the objective of marching forward to an even better and more meaningful year. We must take last year into next year, take the past into the future with an aim at achieving even more, at reaching heights that hitherto have been unattainable.

I wish I could bring Uri back. I can't. But his memory is with me all the time. All the good things about Uri accompany me wherever I go. He is still alive inside of me and he will accompany me into 5775. Once again we have been reminded that our lives in this world are temporary, as my Rebbe Rabbi Bernstein (z"l) always said This world is a station not a destination. I have learnt once again that time is the most precious asset that we have. I do not know what will be tomorrow - none of us do - so I will live every hour, every minute of today. I cannot know the future, but I can squeeze every moment out of the present. And I have every intention of doing so, bezrat Hashem.

I wish those three beautiful boys had never been abducted, but they were. They will also stay alive within me. Their goodness, their purity, will accompany me as I walk into the year 5775. The obligation that I feel to realize where others were not permitted to realize, to achieve where others could not in their memory we will move forward and live their lives for them as we move onwards into the future. The courage and strength of their parents will enhance and continue to inspire me as we enter Rosh HaShana. It is one thing to teach religion, it is another to fulfill it in the most extreme situations imaginable. They have shown us all true avodat Hashem. We know what we must now emulate.

And what of our 67 contemporary Maccabim, who left us with so many dreams unrealized? They remain with me too. To have fought and died for our homeland, to serve in a national army - a reality that had been denied us for two millennia. The dedication and selflessness of their sacrifice that they died so that we could live, so that our State would continue to realize its aspirations their gift is the greatest of all. The return to Zion is happening because the Almighty wishes it to be, but it is also a reality because of the greatness of our people. My pride and belief has been strengthened even more by the courage of my nation, and that will also accompany me into the next year.

So Nitzavim-Vayelech we have stopped, we have learnt the lessons, and now we will march into next year, with an aim of moving even further forward towards our individual and national dreams; but we will do so with Haazinu with an ever present awareness of developing situations. These days must not be the only days that we stop to analyze our reality. Haazinu demands of us to continually pay attention to our lives especially whilst we are Vayelech walking.

The days of Awe emphasize the importance of life itself, but we cannot succeed, we cannot realize our objectives if we only go through this process annually. In truth, every day is a new day; every moment has the potential of wonderful and meaningful dreams coming true. Haazinu demands of us that simultaneous to our walk through life, we are doing our utmost to ensure absolute fulfillment.

And so we reach beracha, my students and friends:

If we follow the path of Nitzavim, Vayelech and Haazinu, we are destined to Beracha. If we live a full and active life continually checking our path and analyzing our actions, then, with the help of the Almighty, we will succeed.

My Beracha to us all, as we enter a very holy year of Shmitta, a year of Shabbat in the holiest of lands, is that:

As individuals we find the truth that is hidden deeply in our hearts;

That we continue to achieve those things that are really important in life;

That we have a year of contentment and fulfilment, of good health and real happiness;

And that together with our families we experience only Semachot.

My Beracha to Am Yisrael, is that we finally reach the true redemption that we so richly deserve, that we merit to live in peace and happiness in our only Homeland; that our enemies finally accept our right to exist and that Shalom spread throughout the world.

Ketiva VeChatima Tova

Rav Milston


Midreshet HaRova

Location: 50 Chabad Street, Old City, Jerusalem

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