Rabbi Carnie Rose: We are nearing the season of introspection, accountability


William Motchan


Each year, as we reread the powerful words of the Book of Deuteronomy in our synagogues, I can’t help but notice how germane its wise teachings are to the season in which we find ourselves: the Days of Awe, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which we will soon celebrate. After all, the High Holy Days are a time specifically set aside by Jewish Tradition for soul-searching — serious introspection and necessary recalibration. And not coincidentally, the entirety of Sefer Devarim, in three long, impassioned and content-filled orations, serve as Moses’ final attempt to instruct the Ancient Israelites — and we, their fortunate heirs — in Derech Hashem, the sacred ways of the Almighty.

This year, as I reviewed the Parashah of Kee Tavo, I could not help but be drawn to the closing verse of our weekly selection: “Therefore, observe faithfully all the terms of this Covenant that you may succeed in all that you undertake.” 

It all seems so very simple. Follow the Brit — God’s Covenant with Am Yisrael — and our lives will be filled to overflowing with joy and beneficence. And yet, our lives are far from simple and straightforward. Our lived experience teaches us that despite our best efforts, tragedies, reversals, and failures are built-in components of the human experience. 

So what are we to make of the Divine promise that following in the ways of Holy One will obviate suffering and misery and catalyze blessing and triumph?

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Many years ago, I had the privilege of hearing Rabbi Jack Riemer (May the Almighty grant him continued vigor of mind and body!) share an insightful tale of a young boy who returned home with his annual report card. Sadly, the young man had not done well and his parents were understandably disappointed and upset. After absorbing a deserved tongue lashing, the lad turned to his parents and seemingly earnestly asked: “Mom and dad, what do you think…Is my poor academic performance genetic or environmental?”

It seems to me, that all too often we are like the young boy in the tale. We know that we have trespassed and yet, we are not willing to take full responsibility for our trespasses. We know that living a life that is in consonance with the ways of the Holy One of Blessing “stacks the deck in our favor”, and yet we nonetheless ascribe our shortcomings to something or someone else. We externalize rather internalize. We deflect rather than take personal responsibility.

Our Holy Torah, over and over again, reminds us that it is only through owning our missteps that we have an opportunity to better ourselves and our lot.  It is only by living in Godly Ways, ways filed with compassion, empathy and love, ways that are articulated succinctly in the sacred cannon of our insightful Mesorah, that we will merit to live lives that are transformative: successful, meaningful and worthwhile. 

As the Yamim Noraim draw near, let us thank the Source of All Life for the profound gift of choice. And let us choose to take control of our lives and attune them to the Ways of the Most High so that we may be worthy of success in all that we undertake. 

Amen, Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah U’Metukah! 

Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose is the Rabbi Bernard Lipnick Senior Rabbinic Chair at Congregation B’nai Amoona. Rabbi Rose is a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical and Cantorial Association, which coordinates the d’var Torah for the Jewish Light.