A meeting of resilience: Biden's encounter and Rosh Hashanah's message

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

The Torah passages and Israel's holidays are full of important messages that are relevant and empower our day-today lives. Rabbi Shai Tahan, head of the Sha'arei Ezra community and head of the Arzi HaLebanon teaching house, opens the gates for us to understand these messages, from their source, in a clear way. This week - A Meeting of Resilience: Biden's Encounter and Rosh Hashanah's Message

During an interview which took place about 20 years ago with Charlie Rose, (a former television talk show host), then-Senator Joe shared his memorable encounter with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in the days leading up to the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In the interview, Joe Biden recounted his meeting with Prime Minister Golda Meir. He described the fascinating encounter where she vividly illustrated the grave dangers faced by the small country of Israel from its neighboring enemy countries. As he listened, he admitted feeling deeply distressed, realizing the seemingly insurmountable challenges the country was up against, leaving him concerned about Israel's survival in its next battle.

During the meeting, when Prime Minister Golda Meir noticed his saddened expression, she inquired about the reason. He shared his distress over the dire situation Israel faced. To his surprise, she confided in him, revealing the country's secret weapon. He initially thought it might be related to a nuclear bomb, but she explained that the true secret lies in the unwavering determination of the Jewish people in Israel. Their strength and resilience stem from the fact that they have no other place to go, making their commitment to the survival and prosperity of Israel their most potent and steadfast weapon.

The message of fighting with unwavering determination and strength, even against stronger and larger armies, is emphasized in our parashah (Shoftim). The Torah guides us on what to do when engaging in war. The Rambam (הלכות מלכים ומלחמות פ״ו ה״ז) provides valuable insight, advising that we avoid completely surrounding the enemy but leave them with an escape route. Rav Meir Simcha Cohen in his sefer Meshech Chochma (Matot ד״ה ויצבאו) further explains that this approach ensures the enemy has a choice, for when people feel cornered and pushed to their limits, they may tap into newfound strengths and abilities to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.

This message is particularly relevant as we enter the month of Elul. Elul serves as a time of preparation before the heavenly judgment on Rosh Hashanah, where each person's deeds are weighed. Just as we learn from the Torah's guidance on fighting a war, the month of Elul reminds us to approach this period with determination and strength, reflecting on our actions and making amends where needed. Indeed, as we approach Rosh Hashanah, we come to realize that we stand before the divine judgment with no escape. It is a critical time to confront our actions and their consequences. 

Just like in war when an army finds itself surrounded without any means of escape, Rosh Hashanah presents a similar situation for us spiritually. On this day of judgment, we cannot evade the consequences of our actions or escape the scrutiny of the divine assessment. We are accountable for our deeds, and there is no way to avoid facing the truth.

However, just as in the war strategy where the enemy gains strength when cornered, Rosh Hashanah offers us an opportunity to tap into our inner reserves of strength, determination, and resilience. Rather than succumbing to despair, we are encouraged to find that extra power within ourselves to confront our mistakes, make amends, and chart a path of improvement.

Facing the reality of our actions and standing before the divine judgment can be daunting, but it also presents a chance for genuine growth and transformation. By embracing our weaknesses and acknowledging our imperfections, we open the door to change and personal development. Rosh Hashanah serves as a reminder that despite being surrounded by our past actions, we possess the inner strength to shape a better future and make positive choices moving forward. It is a time of deep introspection and self-discovery, paving the way for renewal and a fresh start.

This article was written in cooperation with Shuva Israel