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Genuine Growth

Genuine Growth

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On the first day of school, hoping to impress the class with his experience, my brother's teacher listed the many schools where he had taught over the previous decade. One boy, duly impressed, but not quite in the way the teacher had hoped, wondered, "Why were you fired so many times?"

It is always difficult to determine just how many previous employments should be listed on a resume or in a job interview. Listing too many places conveys sophistication and experience, but also, a lack of permanence and loyalty. Listing too few places conveys a sense of steady dependability, but also, a lack of versatility and flexibility.

Indeed, this is the very question we ponder when we consider changing our location or place of employment. Moving around prevents us from laying down roots and building upon previous successes. Staying in one place can result in missed opportunities.

How do we balance these two important, but contradictory considerations?

Two Parshahs

The name of a Torah reading often reflects the general theme of the portion. The Hebrew names of the two parshahs that are read this week are Nitzavim and Vayelech. Nitzavim means to stand firmly. Vayelech means to move forward.

The general theme of the first Torah portion is stationary permanence; to remain firmly committed to one vocation or calling. The general theme of the second Torah portion is forward momentum; to constantly move forward and explore new possibilities.

At first glance the two seem contradictory, yet as we probe the inner meaning of these concepts we discover that they are, in truth, complimentary.

In analyzing the two names we notice the order in which they are arrayed. First, Nitzavim; we commit ourselves to our original position. Only then, firmly rooted in our original state, do we permit ourselves to Vayelech--move forward and seek out new possibilities.

We must always ask ourselves why we seek new opportunities. Is it because we are generally malcontent, unable to remain in one place for long? Or have we maximized our full potential in this area and are seeking further room for growth? The latter is an acceptable reason to relocate, the former is not.

Only when we have maximized our potential in our current location is it appropriate to move forward. At that point, remaining stationary can cause stagnancy and complacency.

Community

When we move into a new community and lay down roots with intention to remain, we naturally reach out to form new friendships and associations. When our stay is intended as temporary we tend not to form deep bonds. "Why form bonds," we ask ourselves, "if they are unlikely to last?"

Indeed, when Moses declared that the nation stood firmly before G‑d, he pointed out that they stood together. Leaders and princes stood alongside children, proselytes, wood-hewers and water-carriers.

A good way to measure the extent of our commitment to a community is to gauge our friendships within that community.

If you entered the community with a migratory mindset then you would not have developed genuine relationships with those around you. If you have developed genuine friendships, chances are that you have fully engaged your community. If you need to move forward at this point, it is not for a lack of trying to make it work.

Stationary Mobility

What can you do if you realize that you never did lay down firm roots in your community or place of employment and never really tried to make it work? Must you force yourself to stay even when your heart wants to leave?

We do, of course, have freedom of choice and may choose to leave; however, there are other options to consider. We might consider remaining in place and satisfying our desire for mobility by introducing new and innovative ideas to our existing framework.

This too is implied by the juxtaposition of the two Torah portions. It is possible to achieve the enthusiasm and momentum of mobility ("Vayelech") even when we remain stationary ("Nitzavim"). New horizons are not always found in new locations or places of employment. It is often possible to remain in our current position and find a novel approach that would stimulate us anew.

New Resolutions

As we approach the High Holidays we would do well to incorporate these ideas into our preparation for the new year. We resolved at the end of last year to improve in certain mitzvot. But as we look back we realize that we did not live up to those expectations and we wonder how to approach the coming year.

Should we dispense with last year's resolutions and try different resolutions this year? or should we recommit ourselves to last year's resolutions and pursue them till we succeed?

The proper approach is a combination of both. We must strengthen our resolve from last year and work to improve in those areas. At the same time, in an effort to generate new enthusiasm, we must also try our hand on new resolutions.

May we succeed in our resolutions and may we be granted a healthy and good new year.

Rabbi Lazer Gurkow is spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Tefilah in London, Ontario, and a frequent contributor to The Judaism Website—Chabad.org. He has lectured extensively on a variety of Jewish topics, and his articles have appeared in many print and online publications. For more on Rabbi Gurkow and his writings, visit InnerStream.ca.
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george 1700, switzerland September 14, 2009

thank you this has been an amazing article. thank you so much! Reply

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