Shabbat Message: Bettering Our Souls

August 30, 2019
By Beth Mordecai
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Shabbat Message: Bettering Our Souls

This Friday night is Rosh Chodesh, the holiday of the new month, celebrated at the beginning of each Hebrew month. Friday night marks the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul, the last and final month of our calendar before Rosh HaShannah, our new year. It is traditional to sound the Shofar every day during services in Elul to wake up our souls. The shofar calls to alert us to the need to make the changes in our lives that we so desperately know we need to make.

During this time of year, we engage in what is known as a “Cheshbon haNefesh,” an accounting of our souls, to help us identify the actions, and behaviors, and attitudes that we want to change. There are forty days between the first of Elul, tonight, and Yom Kippur. Forty days from now, is the penitential period, the time to figure out what we’ve done wrong or not as perfect as we would like and make changes. We sound the Shofar each day in services to remind us to take action. This season is when Jews make “new year’s resolutions,” but ours are not about eating healthier or going to the gym more, our Cheshbon haNefesh is about bettering our souls.

Our Torah portion this week, R’eih, begins with these words: See, this day I set before you blessing and curse: blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin upon you this day; and curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God.

What sets us apart from animals, what distinguishes human beings, is our ability to choose the values by which we live, to choose between being a blessing and a curse. Instinct drives the animals, not rational thought. Our Torah repeatedly affirms that humans the potential to control instincts. At our best, we are higher than angels who don’t have to overcome temptation and apathy. However, at our worst, we are less than beasts, prone to destroy and be cruel.

Our Torah begins this week with: I set before you blessing and curse. It is up to each of us to work to choose the path of blessing as we move forward in the next thirty days toward Rosh HaShannah, and ten days after that, Yom Kippur.

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov!
Rabbi Metz

Category : Rabbi Rabbi's Journal Shabbat