Shabbat Ki Tavo: Final Approach To Landing

On this Shabbat Ki Tavo, “when you arrive,” it seems so appropriate that we are counting the sixth of seven Weeks of Consolation before Rosh HaShanah. We have nearly arrived at the time toward which we are counting, and whether because of procrastination, distraction or inaction, most of us are caught by surprise.

והָיָה, כִּי-תָבוֹא אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה; וִירִשְׁתָּהּ, וְיָשַׁבְתָּ בָּהּ.
When you get there, when you arrive in that which is to be your home
and you are living there safely and know that you are home,
וְלָקַחְתָּ מֵרֵאשִׁית כָּל-פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר תָּבִיא מֵאַרְצְךָ אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ—
וְשַׂמְתָּ בַטֶּנֶא; וְהָלַכְתָּ, אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם, אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ, לְשַׁכֵּן שְׁמוֹ שָׁם.
take of the first of all you have been blessed to produce and own;
put it in a basket and go to the place where HaShem has caused holiness to dwell.
(Devarim 26.1-2)
When you arrive, how will you have arrived there? what will you have with you as the fruit of your journey? how will you be able to find a place of holiness?

We are just over one week away from the Ten Days of Awe, of Repentance and of Return. On Sunday evening September 9 and Monday September 10 we will observe Rosh HaShanah, with Yom Kippur following on September 18-19. We are on the final approach.

Whether or not you are done with the movie or the drink, when the airplane begins its final approach, you must put away the electronics, hand back the cup, and buckle up and prepare yourself for landing: if, G*d forbids, anything out of the ordinary occurs, this is the only way you will be as safe as possible. As we begin our final approach to the Days of Awe, how will you prepare yourself?

Buckle up: join in a Havdalah review of the High Holy Days songs and prayers with the observance of Selikhot, tomorrow evening. Let that quiet hour give you a chance to muse. Where are you arriving, this year? what are you carrying with you? what is the work of your hands, that will show what you did with your year?

Shut down the electronics: demonstrate to yourself that you can master the devices that fill your life with communication, with entertainment, and with information as you choose. For the week between Selikhot and the beginning of the Days of Awe, replace one source of electronic stimulation with quiet. Fill it with something that will feel your soul – a novel, with poetry, or with books about Repentance and Return such as these:

Entering the High Holy Days: A Complete Guide to the History, Prayers, and Themes, by Rabbi Reuven Hammer
Days of Awe: A Treasury of Jewish Wisdom for Reflection, Repentance, and Renewal, by Shmuel Yosef Agnon
Preparing Your Heart for the High Holy Days, by Dr. Kerry M Olitzky

And, finally, hand back that cup: whatever is in your daily cup, your daily routine that is getting in your way, now is the time to give it up. Make room for the Days of Awe, and in discovering how to do so, you will find in your life a place of a spiritual safety, or at least a readiness for whatever comes, that cannot be found in any other way.

On this Shabbat, may you be consoled that there is yet more time for you to consider and to act: when you arrive, how will you have arrived there? what will you have with you as the fruit of your journey? how will you be able to find a place of holiness?
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