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August 4, 2015 / 19 Av, 5775
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Nitzavim-Vayeilech

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The Chovot HaLevavot, in his discussion of repentance (Shaar HaTeshuvah:3), encourages us to do this based on the Mishnah in Avot (2:1) which instructs us to consider the cost of a mitzvah in light of its future reward and the immediate benefit of a sin against its future cost. Rabbeinu Bachaya exhorts us to constantly take account of our actions and evaluate them in terms of their long range consequences and ramifications. The Mesilat Yesharim (Bimishkal HaChasidut) posits that all acts of piety are judged by their end result, not their immediate one.

While the importance of making decisions by considering their effects and envisioning their unintended consequences is critical for decision-makers, it is no less important for all of us. With Rosh Hashanah quickly approaching it behooves us to not only reflect on our obvious mistakes, but to consider the less obvious ones as well—the ones which seemed like good decisions at the time, but somehow went awry. Were they in fact good decisions that unpredictable circumstances conspired to derail or could we have decided differently and more effectively had we looked a bit further past the clearly visible results? We must then heed the lessons learned and incorporate them in our goals for the upcoming year.

May Hashem grant all of us a healthy and productive year and may we merit hearing speedily in our day the blasts of the Great Shofar.



[1] Tragically not only do leaders fail to think in terms of future ramifications they often misidentify what the critical issues and decision points of the day are. Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky said that the difference between himself and other players is that they focused on skating to where the puck is, whereas he conditioned himself to skate to where the puck was going to be. I believe that history has demonstrated that too often leaders did not skate “to where the puck is” but rather, “to where the puck was.”

[2] Great Britain was concerned with this provision since she relied on Germany as her second most important trading partner after the United States.

About the Author: Rabbi Dr. David Hertzberg is the principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division and is an adjunct assistant professor of History at Touro College.


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