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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Approaching The Finish Line

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

We’ve all been there. We are enjoying the first course at the wedding meal. There is light music in the background, pleasant conversation and a beautiful setting. Suddenly the band pumps up. With pomp and fanfare the music reaches a crescendo and a new beginning is about to be announced. Everyone stands up.  “Ladies and gentleman, for the very first time, …” The volume is deafening, we all get very excited and we dance like crazy.

If you’ve been to a bris you will have observed how everyone is shmoozing comfortably when the Mohel will shout “Boruch HaBa!” A hush comes over the assembled as the week old baby is brought into the room and officially welcomed into the Jewish community.

And of course the Bar Mitzvah! Our first grand entrance into manhood. Every one of us remembers our Bar-Mitzva. It was a milestone that we worked hard to reach and finally, on that day, we were welcomed to be an adult part of the community – a real part of Klal Yisroel.

We celebrate new beginnings. We have identified every milestone and have made it into a holiday.

This week’s Torah portion identifies a different milestone. The milestone of finishing, ends, completion and the accomplishment of our goals.

The Jewish people are setting up an army. There is a selection of soldiers. “Who is the man who has built a house…planted a vineyard…been engaged to be married?  They should go home! Lest they get killed in the upcoming war and be unable to bring these beginnings to fruition, they shall not fight with the nation.”

Apparently, beginning or even intending to see these beginnings through, is not good enough. The Torah is telling us that until we reach our individual goals, those grand beginning remains meaningless. We would think that the Mitzvah of conquering Eretz Yisroel takes precedence over our personal vineyard, orchard or home. When we consider the national security of our people it may even be more important than my marriage. Yet the Torah instructs us: go home! Finish what you started. Don’t begin processes without completing them. Experience Shleimus - completion.

All of us have paved quite a few roads with good intentions. There’s a whole stretch of road going towards mastering Tanach, an expressway leading to spending time with our children, and an eight-lane highway staring us in the face each time we see our to-do list.  We all start projects with the intention of finishing them, but the path to fruition is fraught with obstacles: self doubt, fear of commitment, fear of lost opportunity, fear of putting in hard work that might not pay off, fear of failure – even fear of success!  G-d gives us the miracle of inspiration at the beginning of an endeavor, but then it’s up to us to recreate that miracle as soon as that initial burst of motivation starts to fade. “Shalem”, completion brings about “shalom” peace.

Laying a foundation to a house is great—but seeing a HOME lit with Shabbos candles on Friday night is shalem. It represents peace. Meeting a couple who just got engaged or dancing at their wedding and feeling the incredible joy is a beautiful thing, but nothing compared to seeing a mature couple look at each other with love and cooperation.  The Torah commands us to resist getting involved with new, apparently more important projects, and to go home and finish what we started. Become a shalem, and G-d will grant us the ultimate blessing: Shalom.

We have entered Elul. Elul is not only a preparation for the year to come it represents the finish line of the year gone by. It’s time to remind ourselves of the commitments we made last Rosh Hashana and bring them home.

“Tell the one who begins a Mitzvah; ‘it’s time to finish!’” (Talmud Yerushalmi)

This week’s Dvar Torah is sponsored by Jeff Zucker, on the occasion of the fifth yartseit of his beloved father Ross, Reuven ben Shaul, a"h.

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