By Rabbi Yona Matusof
This year - 5783 - is a year of Hakhel - the special Mitzvah which was observed once in seven years, requiring the gathering of the Jewish people, in the Beth Hamikdosh (Holy Temple), for the purpose of strengthening and stimulating them in their adherence to Torah and Mitzvos.
Human life expresses itself in three general forms: thought, word, and deed.
Thoughts, words, and deeds of yesterday, do not vanish without a trace; their influence lingers on, affecting the shape of things of today and tomorrow, as evidenced in actual results, both in regard to the self and the environment.
Although, at first glance, it may appear that an action in the past is no longer under human control: the past is gone, and no person can retrieve it and alter it - this is really not so. For G-d has given us a Divine power - by means of Teshuvah (repentance) - to alter not only the course of the future, but also the power directly to affect the past as well: to change it, even to the extent of reversing it all together, so much so that "willful transgressions are deemed as inadvertencies" (Talmud) and can, moreover, be converted into positive accomplishments.
Every year at this time, the Jew is called upon to take account of all his thoughts, words, and deeds - when we accept the absolute sovereignty of the Creator and King of the World. If such preparedness is called for in any year, surely this should be done with even greater dedication and devotion at the Hakhel-Year. For the significance of Hakhel, in a spiritual sense, is that it indicates and demands the gathering of all one's thoughts, words, and deeds, in order to orientate them toward and place them in one's inner "Beth Hamikdosh," with wholehearted submission to the King's command - the Will of G-d.
This year, we can resolve to:
Change those thoughts, words, and deeds in daily life which require a change;
Repair and improve those which require more perfection;
Instill more enthusiasm and vitality.
Reflecting deeply on the truth that nothing need be given up as a total loss, one can see that there is no basis for sadness and despair, not only in relation to the future, but even not in relation to the past. On the contrary, in the fullest assurance that G-d watches over each and everyone, and aids every good intention and deed, everyone can embark upon his or her preparedness for the new year with complete confidence. And even if certain matters in the bygone year give cause for profound regret, there is, at the same time, the overriding joy in the realization that the Almighty has given us the ability to convert even willful transgressions (G-d forbid) into accomplishments. It is also self-evident that when something is done with joy and confidence, it is accomplished with a greater measure of success.
May the Almighty help each and everyone, to take advantage of this opportunity in the fullest measure, with joy and gladness of heart.
Rabbi Mendel and Henya, Rabbi Avremel and Mushkie, Faygie and I, extend our blessings to each and every one of you. Chatima ugmar Chatima Tova, to be sealed for a good and sweet year, a year of true peace, health, prosperity, and love.
Rabbi Yona Matusof is the Director of Chabad of Madison. Born in Casablanca, Morocco, and studied in Paris, France. After completing his studies at Rabbinical College in New York where he was ordained, he moved with his wife, Faygie, to Madison in 1980 as Rabbi of Chabad (Lubavitch) of Madison, serving the Madison and Dane County Jewish Community.