Divrei Torah


This coming Shabbos – the Shabbos between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur – is called Shabbos Shuva. The name comes from the first two words of the haftara – “Shuva Yisrael – return Israel to G-d.” The word Shuva means to return and that is the theme of this season – our return to G-d – what we have done well, keep it up and raise it a notch. What we have not done so well, we must improve.

How do we improve? The best method is in small steps. One cannot climb Mount Everest by jumping straight to the top or rushing up to its summit. That is almost a guaranteed failure and fatal fall. One begins from the base camp and ascends slowly and carefully. If it is necessary to rest for a bit, that is acceptable. It might take a while to reach the summit, but that is the method for success.

The same is true in Judaism. We all have areas that require improvement. We all want to do better. There are many people whose goal is to become more religious. That is a beautiful and meritorious goal, but it must be done as though one were climbing Mount Everest. It is well within one’s capabilities if it is done properly. One who tries to do too much at once can end up behind his starting point.

About forty years ago, there was a boy in the yeshiva who did not come from a religious home. He somehow ended up in the yeshiva and decided that he wanted to become much more religious. Unfortunately, he did not accept counseling from any of the teachers and decided to try it his way. He attempted to do everything. In a brief period of time, he accepted upon himself many more of the mitzvos and several stringencies. A short time later he was no longer religious. He tried to do too much at one time.

Sometimes, a person can give much effort into teshuva and become discouraged. A person fails to see any accomplishments or progress. How does that person see success?

A person might not notice any immediate growth, but one who has been nurturing his/her soul will eventually see tremendous spirituality growth.

People, who patiently toil towards worthwhile dreams and goals, building strong character while overcoming adversity and challenge, grow the strong internal foundation to handle success, while get-rich-quick schemes usually are unable to sustain unearned sudden wealth.

Personal growth and change are never easy. It’s slow to show any progress. It is frustrating and unrewarding at times. But it is so worth it…especially if we can be patient and persistent.

In our present world driven by instant gratification – this is our biggest challenge. We live in a quick-fix society. We get frustrated if we must wait more than 30 seconds for our computers to boot, 2 minutes for service, a stop light to change, or if nobody answers the phone.  We want instant solutions to every complex problem and every fractured relationship. We want it all now!

People must learn the virtues of patience and faith. Keep trying and do not give up. One might not see growth now, but down the road, that person will reap the benefits.

Theodore Herzl said, “If you will it, it is not a dream.” At the first Zionist Congress in 1897, Herzl said, “I have founded the Jewish state. It will take 50 years to come to fruition.” He was close. Much of the Jewish world pursued his dream. It took just over 50 years and look what we have today. A Jewish state where almost 50% of world Jewry lives. We could have easily given up. Fortunately, we chose the path of patience and faith.

When we have faith and patience, we can also experience enormous growth.