D'var Torah for Shabbat Shuvah and Parashat Vayeilech
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Thursday 9th September 2021

After creating new goals for ourselves on Rosh Hashanah and being judged for another year of life, we now turn our focus to accountability for our mistakes. On Yom Kippur we stand alone, each one of us reckoning with the knowledge that we are important.

Internalising this often poses a challenge: how do we recognise our limitations, overcome them and allow our greatness to come to the fore? An answer can be found in the Kli Yakar’s commentary (Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim ben Aaron Luntschitz (1550 – 21 April, 1619, Poland) on this week’s sedra, which states that Moshe spent his last day giving each tribe individually words of mussar, improvement.

Approaching Yom Kippur, we recognise such advice from trusted mentors and role models is not always readily given, and recognising our own limitations is difficult. The Kli Yakar’s commentary reminds us that if we don’t receive this objectivity independently, we should take the opportunity to actively seek it out.

Based on a model first introduced to me by Rabbi Aryeh Nevin, an international expert in Jewish Personal Development, called The Tripod of Objectivity, this is something I try to do at this point in the year. He postulates that there are three types of relationships that help us achieve objectivity and balance, enabling us to realise our mistakes, and see our greatness.  A mentor/teacher who provides greater clarity, someone whom we respect. A friend/peer who is confronting a similar challenge, advising us from a place of equality.  And finally, a student/employee/child, those who look up to us and sharpen our minds by the questions they ask.

Subjectivity blinds us. Many of us take different roles in our lives – teachers to some, but students to others. To navigate our lives, achieve balance and assess ourselves honestly, the tripod of objectivity serves as a useful tool to enable us to receive advice from mentors, students and friends and allowing us to bring our greatness to the fore and to recognise our profound importance.

Rebbetzen Lisa Levene serves Belmont United Synagogue

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