Nitzavim-Vayelech: Absent Sounds

Take note of the missing notes.

Rabbi S. Weiss,

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
Arutz 7

"Not only with you here today do I make this pact, but with those who are not here as well."

Quite a mysterious statement HaShem makes in our sedra, no?

This Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat and Sunday. Though the Torah mandates sounding the shofar whenever Rosh Hashanah falls (and indeed, the shofar was sounded on Shabbat in Biblical days, when Rosh Hashanah was only one day), today we do not blow shofar on the first day, if it's a Shabbat. The rabbis decided to push off the tekiot until Sunday (the second day of Rosh Hashanah) in order to safeguard the sanctity of Shabbat. They feared it might be violated by one who takes the shofar, in a place where carrying is prohibited on Shabbat, to an expert to learn how to sound it.

Beyond the issues this raises of rabbinic responsibility and the vital importance of Shabbat, another sentiment is
Reconcile with those who live among us, as well as those who reside beyond us.
at work here. As crucial as it is to hear the majestic notes of the shofar, sometimes it is equally important to take note of the notes which are missing; to ponder not only what we have, but also that which is lacking in our lives.

Consider: At the Seder table, we leave a chair empty for Eliyahu, to signify that until Moshiach comes we cannot completely celebrate. At every chuppah we break a glass to remind the assembled that, however great our joy is at this moment, the loss and lack of the Bet HaMikdash is very much in our hearts. At each of the Festivals and on the High Holidays, we do not complete the chag until and unless we lovingly recall all those who physically may no longer be part of our lives, but whose spirit permeates all we are and all we do. What is Yom Tov without Yizkor?

And before Rosh Hashanah-Yom Kippur, we are pointedly told to do two things: seek peace and reconciliation with our neighbors and family members; and visit the graves of the righteous. That is, to reconcile with those who live among us, as well as those who reside beyond us.

And so now we understand. As Moshe gathers his beloved people at his side, his own life slipping away, he reminds us that we are much more than just the reflection we see when we look in the mirror. We are the product of those who bore us, who shaped our lives, who loved us so deeply; and we also bear responsibility for those who will descend from us, learn from us, inherit from us. We are bound together not only with those standing here today, but also with those not here.

All these lovers and friends, I still can recall; some are dead and some are living; In my life, I've loved them all.

On this last Shabbat of the year, as we approach the coming New Year, may G-d remember us and our loved ones for good, and grant us life and peace.