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Drash on Nitzavim-Vayelech

Rabbi Dr Orna Triguboff

Emanuel Synagogue

A Life Affirming Path
Set before each of us is the choice between life and goodness or negativity and the process of atonement or At One-ment, is what helps us navigate the way. This week’s Torah reading discusses the idea that each person has a choice, at every moment, whether to go in the direction of goodness and positivity or not. Interestingly, it also suggests that these choices are constantly being made and therefore, we have new chances all the time especially through engaging in the process of teshuvah/atonement – to correct our path and redirect our energy towards our authentic purpose.

There is always a way out of the darkness, and that is the Torah message this week.


The answer is in the nature of the word: atonement and in Hebrew teshuvah.

Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (of blessed memory) taught that atonement is At One-ment. That is, when we are repenting or atoning, we are really searching our way back to a feeling of oneness. Asking ourselves: “What makes me feel at one with life? What brings me a feeling of wholeness?” and acting on the answers we give, is a way to go back to choosing life and goodness.

It is a process that needs to be renewed each year before the Jewish New Year, so that we can be released from the negative patterns in which we have become stuck.

The Hebrew word for repentance, teshuvah, comes from the root “to return”. What are we returning to? Our inherent goodness, our inner light of the heart. Throughout the year we invariably do actions that cover our light, but this is the time of year to rest, reflect and return to the authentic self within. Embedded in the Jewish calendar is this precious period where we make time to find that hidden light within.

This period is also called a time of cheshbon nefesh – ‘soul accounting’. It is a time, not only  to explore what needs to be improved and set right, but also what has been going well and should be strengthened.

What are your strong points? What do you like about yourself? What helps you make good choices? And what helps you choose a life of goodness? What will make this year the best year you’ve ever had?

Find more Parashat Hashavua