On Being Good – Ki Teitzei 5775
The Talmud states that we are judged every day, and according to one opinion, every moment – so what is special about Rosh HaShana as the Day of Judgement? One answer to this question is alluded to by Maimonides, and I think is central to our goals at this time of year. The month of Ellul and the approaching Days of Awe, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. are not about correcting specific sins or making progress in specific obligations. Those are matters about which we should be concerned all year, and those are areas in which we are continuously judged and evaluated. The days in which we find ourselves now are focused on establishing our true identity – are we basically good people who occasionally do the wrong thing, or, G-d forbid, bad people who do the occasional good act, or do good things frequently by rote, or because of peer pressure etc.
During this time rather than checking off our merits and demerits on a checklist, we should focus on a more general picture. Are we good parents, children, siblings, spouses, friends, community members? These are areas where it is difficult, if not impossible, to check off factors. These are areas of life where, unlike something like the kosher laws or keeping Shabbat, there is a lot of ambiguity, fluid obligations and prohibitions, and many areas of discretion. These are areas where there is continuously room to grow, and where almost everything we do, no matter how minor it appears to us, is important. We hear the wakeup call of the shofar and we add additional prayers during this month, but it is more important to look in the mirror and ask if we are really succeeding or even trying to be righteous, good, and decent people.
Based on an idea from my son, Pinchas Becher