Our lives as individuals often display two quite different features. One is dynamism, movement, progress, discovery and change. The second feature, seemingly the opposite, yet also very important, is the attempt to strengthen one's position, to consolidate, to attempt to be secure and firm, immoveable. The combination of these two contrasting qualities creates a healthy dynamic. One moves forward and grows - but not at the expense of what one has already gained. There is the thrust towards expansion and also a concern for consolidation.

These two qualities are expressed by the names of the double Torah portion which is read this Shabbat, the Shabbat before the New Year, Rosh Hashanah. The first Torah portion is called Nitzavim, which means in Hebrew "standing firm." In its opening words, Moses tells the Jewish people "you are all standing firm here today." The second Torah portion is called Vayelech, which means "he went," referring to Moses: "Moses went and said these words to the Jewish people."

While there are many fascinating ideas and teachings within these two Torah portions, something important is transmitted just by their very names: standing firm and moving forward. This provides guidance as to how we should live our lives, and has particular relevance on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah.

While the double theme of consolidation and advance can be applied to the business world and many other aspects of human endeavor, it also has special relevance for the spiritual life of a Jewish man or woman. Let us consider this in terms of the three general realms of Jewish expression: Torah study, Prayer and good deeds:

Torah study combines both a fixed, firm dimension, and also an inner dynamic. There is the fixed text of the Torah Scroll and the other books of the Bible, the Written Torah. Yet this is discussed and explored by seemingly endless books of teachings and commentaries by great Sages, who in every epoch provide guidance relevant to the challenges of that particular time. So, on the one hand Torah is constant, on the other it is growing.

Prayer, too, has a "fixed" quality and also a personal dynamic. The fixed prayer is the text in the prayerbook. Many parts of it are exactly the same every day of the year, whether an ordinary weekday or Yom Kippur. Then come special prayers, unique to certain days. Even more so, there is the individual and personal way in which a man or woman may approach the printed text, with their own unique feeling.

Finally in the realm of the precepts of Judaism (the Mitzvot), there is the fixed structure of the ideal Jewish lifestyle. And there is also the personal way in which any individual approaches this, taking certain points on board in their daily lives, emphasizing some details more than others, gradually increasing in observance and at the same time consolidating what one has already achieved.1