Changing Places

This week’s parasha is once again short and to the point.  Moshe gives the people of Israel a shira, a poem or song, which will serve as a reminder of their commitment to Hashem.  Moshe told them to put these words into their hearts, simu levavchem, because this is no small thing, ki lo davar rak hu, rather – it’s our life, ki hu chayechem. 

What ideas do we want our kids to hold onto that we know is important advice for life?  I’ll share something I heard over Yom Kippur from Rabbi Dov Linzer, Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, who spoke about the transition from Yom Kippur to Sukkot.  We are commanded to begin constructing our sukkah immediately following Yom Kippur, to begin thinking about our temporary place for the next holiday.  What can changing places and spaces teach us? 

Rambam speaks of three ways to do teshuva: shinui ha-shem, a change of name; shinui ma’aseh, a change of our actions; and shinui makom, a change of place.  Changing one’s name, one’s fundamental character, is very difficult.  Rabbi Yisroel Salanter said once that learning the entire shas is easier than changing even one character trait.  Changing one’s actions?  Equally difficult – and equally hard to make stick.  We have all made New Year’s resolutions about the gym or about doing mitzvot that have lasted for very short periods of time. 

Rabbi Linzer spoke about the idea of shinui makom, of putting physical changes into place in our lives and our children’s lives that will improve our habits: of making our phones inaccessible during supper so we give each other our full attention; placing a book ofparashat hashavua or Pirkei Avot near our Shabbat table for easy access so we can learn with our children each week.

What other instances of altering our physical spaces to either remove temptation or encourage positive behavior can we create as we move into our sukkot?  The possibilities are endless.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Rabbi Jeffrey Kobrin