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We have to do our part to succeed, but overextending ourselves can show lack of faith and failure to appreciate that God is really in charge.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is the double reading of “Netzavim-Vayelech” (Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30), and in it we read about the mitzvah of “Hakhel” – the national gathering.

The Torah says, “At the end of every seven years, in the set time of the Sabbatical year, in the Festival of Sukkot, when all Israel is to come to appear before God in the place which He shall choose, you shall read this law before all Israel … Assemble the people, the men and the women and the children…that they may hear and learn.” (Deuteronomy 31:10-13)

To elaborate, every seven years the King of Israel read the Torah to the entire nation who assembled in Jerusalem right after the conclusion of Sukkot, the year’s third biblical festival, which is observed a few days after Yom Kippur.

It is noted that the Hakhel gathering is essentially the culmination of the following events and experiences: the sabbatical year, the Sukkot holiday, and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The common denominator between them all is that they are mitzvot (Torah commandments) that instill faith in God.

The Sabbatical year, during which the farmer is forbidden to work his land, essentially sends the farmer to unemployment and loss of income. He needs to put his faith in God to survive. And considering that no farmer has ever starved to death for observing the Sabbatical year, the farmer learns more than anyone else that it is God who indeed is the true provider, not the carrots or tomatoes.

The pilgrimage festival is also a lesson in faith. To perform the pilgrimage you need to pack up, lock your front door, and make your way to Jerusalem. The pilgrim is away from home for over a month! Will the home be there upon return? Will everything be safe? What about theft? God promises the farmer that everything will be okay. The pilgrim accepts, believes, and goes. Faith.

Finally, the holiday of Sukkot is also all about faith. On Sukkot we leave our homes and dwell in flimsy booths outdoors with exposure to the elements and passersby. It’s not necessarily the safest of commandments. But we do it anyway. Indeed, Sukkot reminds us that the Jews were protected as they traveled the harsh desert for 40 years. They had faith.

This is why the Hakhel gathering happens at this time. The nation has just gotten a triple dose of faith!

We need this dose of faith far more often than once every seven years. Our lives these days are so busy, so complex. We are constantly trying to make a living. Nowadays, we are also working hard to stay healthy. Both are important, but we don’t make enough time for spiritual endeavors.

The mitzvah of Hakhel tells us that maybe we should not be running around like crazy to make a living. Running around, yes. Running around like crazy, no.

God is in charge. He decides how much we are going to make, what we are going to have, and how healthy we will be. Yes, we have to do our part, but overextending ourselves might actually be a display of a lack of faith.

With Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur upon us, it is an appropriate time to rededicate ourselves to faith in God. It is a good time to re-set priorities and make time for the things that matter. As they say, no one ever said on their deathbed that they wish they would have spent more time in the office!

Remember, effort is important, but it is ultimately only God Who will decide our income.

For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portions, click on the links below:










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