When We've Messed It Up and Have No One Left to Blame

#Nitzavim #RoshHaShana #תשפא

They tell a story of a soldier who was drafted into the army against his will, with his whole life and career ahead of him. Angry and frustrated, he did everything he could to avoid the draft, but his conscription was inevitable. After hugs and tears, the day arrived. He packed he bags, and reported for duty.

Training was brutal. Officers would wake him before dawn, to run and fight, and clean and lift and polish and wait. He hated every minute. Generals would lecture him on the importance of national security, of teamwork and camaraderie.

“Give me a break” he would mutter under his breath. “Our country has not seen a battle in generations. Why should I give up these years, in the prime of my life to defend a place that doesn’t need defending?!”

But the army has it way of getting results. Slowly, over many long days and weeks and months, this pampered young man became a solider. He learned discipline, agility and marksmanship. He learned how to fight, how to spy and how to disappear into the night.

But despite his training, he could never shake the feeling that time was being stolen from him.

And so it was, in the blackness of night, camping out on a training mission, this soldier packed his meager belongings, and fled from the army camp.

His departure caused quite a stir. The men in his unit spoke in hushed voices about his disgruntled mutterings. The officers and generals issued the sternest of warnings to the rest of the platoon, fearing that others, too, might consider abandoning their stations.

Posters of his face were circulated in the nearby provinces with the words “WANTED!” And “REWARD!” in bold letters. But despite the hungry opportunism of the local peasants, they stood no chance of finding the stealthy and determined young man.

As for him? He made his way to the port. Traded his weapon for a ticket abroad, and sailed into his stolen sunset. He found a wife, finally put down roots, and pursued his dreams...

Man plans and God laughs. The drums of war came to his new land. Letters were mailed. Government officials came knocking at his door. “We need to see your papers.” They said. “We have been informed that there are enemy spies amongst us.”

With little time, and fewer options, he hastily packed his bags. He kissed his wife and children goodbye, and fled into the night once more.

It seemed strange to be standing that dock once again. Flushed and anxious. Clutched tightly in his hand, this time, was the last ticket to the land of his birth.

Lost and afraid, he wondered what he might do when the waves of destiny brought him home. Would they remember him? Would they remember what he had done. Fear and shame closed in as he finally saw land in the distance in the early hours of the morning.

But something was not right. Mere minutes after setting foot on home soil, he heard the trumpets of Battle! Soldiers were marching, people were fleeing. A man turned to him and cried “What are you doing standing here! We’re under attack! This is war!” Women and children were running for cover. Middle aged men with pot bellies squeezed into old army fatigues were running through the streets.

And in front of him he saw: His unit! His old army friends, running towards the battle field. He sensed their desperation. He felt their fear and trepidation. The knowledge that they were not fighting for king and country. They were fighting for their families, their parents and children.

And so he joined them, ran and ducked and fought through the streets with them. It was surreal as he arrived at his base with them. His friends were astounded. His officers has no words.

But hugs, and tears abounded. “We don’t care anymore that you deserted us. You came back! You came home! You’re here to fight along side us!”

Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa would explain: It doesn’t matter how long you deserted your post. It doesn’t matter how far you have strayed. When war comes, all that Hashem and the Jewish people care about is that you come home.

My dear friends; the war is coming. The battle field is this year: 5782. The stakes? Our children and parents. Our wives and husbands. Our schools, shuls, families, democracies, the State of Israel, Talmud Torah, Yiras Shamayim, Ahavas Hashem- everything!

So on the final Shabbos of the year, our old commander – Moshe Rabbeinu – tells us: אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם כֻּלְּכֶם – You are all here. Baruch HaShem you are here! Thank you for coming back.

Wherever life has taken you, you are here today to fight for Hakadosh Baruch Hu and for Klal Yisrael. So we put away the insignificant difference of politics, policies and machlokes. We march together under the same banner, sounding the same battle cry: The Shofar. We've been sounding it in preparation all month.

The Torah tells us that the sounds of the the Shofar are marching orders. Tekiah calls us to gather. Teruah tells us to move and to fight. Where is this movement? What is the fight?

The Shela HaKadosh tells us the main kavanah of the Shofar is to know that in the beginning, Hashem created us whole and healthy (Tekia). Back then, it was all good. As we grew up we made mistakes. We broke ourselves into pieces (Shevarim) and then we shattered ourselves further (Teruah). We messed it all up, over and over again. But there is a Tekia at the end. That's where Hashem promises us that so long as we come home again it can be good again.

When we speak about observance of Jewish law, we have a strange phrase: “Breaking Halacha”. Breaking Shabbos, Breaking Shomer-Negiah, Breaking Yom Kippur. But the deepest way, a Jew can never break Halacha. We cannot break the Torah of Hashem, we can only break ourselves in our attempt to run away.

The Shofar tells us: We can fix ourselves.

Master of the Universe: We are sorry that we ran, we are sorry that we strayed. We are sorry that we deserted our units, our friends, and nation and put pride and ego and desire before You. But now we are back, and better than ever. You are our King! We are ready to fight for our lives, our people, our community, our family and the world. Please make us whole again. Please bring us home.