Nitzavim-Vayelech: A birthday homecoming
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Nitzavim-Vayelech: A birthday homecoming

No matter what you do, think, choose, or be-lieve, Dad will always be Dad.

He’ll always love you. Care for you. Be there for you.

You could disagree with him. Defy him. Rebel against him. Even reject and hate him. But he’ll never lock his doors, or his heart, to you. He can’t. You’re his child. And he’s Dad.

He’ll watch with pain and sadness as you trip and fall. Make mistakes. Insist on repeating them. Refuse to listen to him. And demand, without thanks, food, lodging, and money.

He just never gives up on you.

Even when he yells at you, it’s out of love. It’s because he doesn’t want you doing that bad thing. And to him, that’s really bad. And it hurts him to rebuke you as much as it hurts you.

Certainly, he will always celebrate you and is always proud of your achievements and growth.

Now, were we talking about Dad? Or about God?

Judaism is replete with comparisons of God to the human father: the loyal and giving patriarch, the rock, the family man who’s there for his clan’s every tragedy and triumph, and who above all fiercely and endlessly loves his every child.

All that, and more, is what we mean when we say “Avinu,” our Father, in the Avinu Malkeinu prayer said repeatedly throughout Rosh Hashanah. The phrase appears in the daily liturgy too.

“Dad” conveys so much. We call God our “Father” because He is to us everything that our fathers are to us-and infinitely more.

The Baal Shem Tov, founder of chasidism, taught that every Jew is seen and loved by God, personally and unconditionally, as an only child – a belief that comes to the fore on Rosh Hashanah.

A classic chasidic parable tells of the king who sent his precious little boy to grow up among strangers far away. Upon becoming a man, the prince couldn’t even speak his native tongue. Trying to enter the royal palace upon return, he couldn’t communicate with the guards, who thrust him away. But the king heard the wordless sobs, recognized his boy, and threw the gates open wide.

The shofar is that wordless cry of our souls, calling out to our loving Father in heaven.

At Rosh Hashanah, let’s remember that we are God’s children. We’re home. We want in.

And we want in on the best possible day to want in, because Rosh Hashanah is our birthday.

Rosh Hashanah is the day on which God created Man. And while it may be the birthday of Adam, the first human, it’s really a milestone for all of us-the day on which our Father in Heaven brought us into being. So let’s think about us for a bit-our lives, our existence, who we are.

In this week’s Torah portion of Nitzavim, which is always read before Rosh Hashanah, God tells us: “You are all standing here today before the Lord your God… that you may enter the covenant of the Lord your God and His oath which the Lord… is making with you today.”

According to our Sages, that ancient day of reckoning refers to Rosh Hashanah-mankind’s collective birthday.

The message here is simple and powerful: All of us matter. Just as your individual birthday is your beginning, the day that makes you count, so is Rosh Hashanah the day we stand before God and recognize that we count. On this awesome day we celebrate our life and take into account what we were created for.

We are God’s children. And God is Avinu, our Dad. Celebrating Rosh Hashanah as mankind’s birthday is God’s way of saying that every human being matters – that each individual is to be celebrated and hailed, that every single person makes a difference. We are all God’s children. He is the Father of us all. And we matter. May we have the strength to celebrate every day and know that every moment counts.

L’shanah Tovah to all.

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