From the desk of Rabbi Sholom Schapiro, Shliach in Manhattan:
A father gathered his children and handed them a bundle of twigs and asked them to break them in half. Try as they would, it was too difficult and they could not crack the twigs. The father then took off the twine and handed each child one twig, asking them once again to break them. This time, each twig snapped easily. The father said to his children: Together you are unbreakable. But when you stand alone and isolated, you are easily crushed.
This week’s Torah portion begins with “You are all standing this day before the L-rd, your G-d the leaders of your tribes, your elders and your officers, every man of Israel, your young children, your women, and your convert who is within your camp both your woodcutters and your water drawers.”
This parsha, Nitzavim, is always read on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah, the day of judgment, to instruct us how we should be on this day: Together.
The opening words of the parsha are the ultimate expression of unity amongst the Jewish people. All ages, classes, economic groups, level of education – we are all one people. And on our day of judgment, we should be together.
This, indeed, is what the Rabbis teach us: When we are together as a people, our small, individual sins get lost, and we merit to be judged favorably.
Imagine your children engaged in some mischief. You walk into the room and they have made an enormous mess. On top of that, they are throwing things and teasing each other, not acting with brotherly love.
Now imagine this. The room you walk into is the same mess, with things scattered all over the floor. But this time, instead of fighting, your children are laughing and dancing together, arms around one another’s shoulders.
Consider how your reaction differs in the second scenario. Yes, you may be angry as they have made a huge mess. But how can you be truly upset when your children show such love for one another? Their togetherness is what gives you the most joy as a parent. The mess is a pain; but their unity you just can’t resist.
On Rosh Hashanah, let us give G-d the opportunity to overlook our worst transgressions. Let us be truly united with our Jewish brethren throughout the world, showing our love for all of G-d’s children. Let us stand together, assured that our Father in heaven will just forget about the mess.