Beyond Twelve Gates – Parshas Nitzavim

Beyond Twelve Gates Parshas Nitzavim October 1, 2016

As the year 5777 is about to begin, we wish you a year filled with blessing and goodness. Beyond Twelve Gates will resume after the conclusion of the holidays.

Parshas Nitzavim – Deuteronomy 29:9 – 30:20

Nitzavim begins with Moses gathering every member of the Jewish people for the final time. He initiates them into a Covenant with G-d as the Almighty’s ‘Chosen People’. This Covenant applied not only to those present on that day, but to all future Jewish generations. Moses tells the people that although eventually they will sin, in time they will repent and return to the Torah, and G-d will usher in the messianic era when we all return to the land of Israel. Furthermore, he assures them that the commandments are neither distant nor inaccessible (‘it is not in heaven’). This means that a committed Jewish life is well within everyone’s reach.

Torah Reading for Rosh Hashana

The two days of Rosh Hashana fall out on Monday, October 3 and Tuesday, October 4 (The first day of Rosh Hashana begins Sunday evening). On Monday the Torah reading is from Genesis 21:1 — 21:34. On Tuesday the Torah reading is from Genesis 22:1 — 22:24.

The theme of the Monday Torah reading is that G-d remembered Sarah at the age of 90. She bore a son named Isaac to her 100 year-old husband Abraham. Our tradition teaches that Sarah conceived on Rosh Hashana. Not only do we recall Sarah and Abraham’s great merit, but we should be inspired to repent and pray just as they did.

The theme of the Tuesday Torah reading is the account of the Akeidah, the Binding of Isaac. Both Abraham and Isaac demonstrated their willingness to make any sacrifice to comply with G-d’s will. Our tradition teaches that the Akeida took place on Rosh Hashana. The shofar of Rosh Hashana is customarily made of a ram’s horn to recall the merit of the Akeida because a ram was substituted for Isaac on the altar.

Rabbinic Ruminations

Some of us may wish we possessed the ability to decode the lives of the people around us like the great Sherlock Holmes. Is a person’s smile the secret to understanding someone’s personality? The music they listen to? Their Facebook posts? One type of question recently shown to reveal much of a person’s personality is to ask them what they think about other people. Why? We tend to see more of our own qualities in others. The generous person sees others as generous and the selfish person sees others as selfish. Dr. Dustin Wood, a recent study’s first author, said: “A huge suite of negative personality traits are associated with viewing others negatively. The simple tendency to see people negatively indicates a greater likelihood of depression and various personality disorders.” The study documents various properties of perceiver effects—or how an individual generally tends to describe other people in a population.
In the study people were asked to judge the positive and negative characteristics of three other people. The more positively they judged those people, the more happy, enthusiastic, capable and emotionally stable they turned out to be themselves. People who judged others more positively also turned out to be more satisfied with their own lives. Set against this, those who judged others more negatively had higher levels of narcissism and antisocial behavior. The researchers even returned to the same people a year later and found the results were the same. This suggests that what people’s ratings of others say about themselves remains stable over time. Personality disorders are often diagnosed at least partly by how people view others, the authors write: “ Machiavellianism is usually measured in part by asking individuals the extent to which they perceive a lack of sincerity, integrity, or selflessness in others’ actions, and narcissistic behavior is thought to be prompted in part by a belief that other people are inferior, uninteresting, and unworthy of attention.” The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Wood et al., 2010).

In one classic Jewish story, Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berdychiv was walking with his students, when they came across a man who was fixing his carriage while wearing his tallis and tefillin. The Chasidim stopped in their tracks and called: “Rebbe! That Jew is fixing his cart in the middle of prayer!” Rav Levi Yitzchak lifted his hands to the heavens and said: “Master of the Universe, look at your dear child: even while fixing his cart, he prays!” Regardless of our personality, Judaism encourages us to choose to see the good in things, and in people. This is called having an ayin tovah, literally, a “good eye.” Having an ayin tovah doesn’t mean pretending that flaws aren’t there. Having an ayin tovah means looking at the entirety of a person to see and focus on the good.

Quote of the Week

By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach. — Winston Churchill

Joke of the Week

Old Mr.Johnson, raging hypochondriac, was convinced that the pain on his left side was appendicitis. Mrs. Johnson explained that the appendix is on the right.

“So, aha! THAT’s why it hurts to much,” said Mr. Johnson. “My appendix is on the wrong side!”

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