Someone recently emailed me a video clip that shows a lead car race driver bungle his win. The clip shows the car zip around the last bend and speed towards the finish. Confident of a win, the driver vigorously waves his fist out of the window, loses control of the car and smashes into the barrier, just two metres before the checkered flag. There’s a lesson- you haven’t arrived until you arrive.
We always read the portion “Ki Savo” before Rosh Hashanah. It opens with the law of Bikkurim, taking first fruits to Jerusalem as an offering to G-d. Bikkurim only applied once all Jews had settled in the Promised Land. It took seven years to settle everyone (you can just imagine the challenge of telling Jews where to live and hoping they’ll be happy). Meanwhile, people got to work farming as soon as they were settled. Many farmers had first fruits long before the nation had all moved in, yet none of them had to bring Bikkurim.
“Ki Savo” literally means “when you arrive”. The Bikkurim process could only be done when they arrived in Israel and until the last Jew had “arrived”, nobody had arrived.
Rosh Hashanah is in the air and it is time for introspection and self-transformation. If you’re serious about Rosh Hashanah, you are likely doing a little more for your Judaism these days. You probably hope to be focused and to feel connected at Shul over the High Holidays. Monday is “Chai” (18th) Elul, the final stretch. From Monday there are twelve days ‘til Rosh Hashanah- one day to repair the mistakes of each month of the last year. We’re zooming towards the finish line and all want to ensure that we make it across.
Our Torah portion’s message is most relevant now- nobody arrives until everybody arrives. When Noah saved his own family from the Flood and never tried to save others, he lost the chance to be Jewish. Abraham, who worked tirelessly to ensure that everyone he met would appreciate G-d, became the first Jew, setting the tone for how Jews should behave.
Jews are responsible for each other. Each of us is a cell in one great spiritual body, crisscrossed by nerves that link us to one other. No body-part can live independently of the others. No Jew can reach their spiritual goals as long as other Jews have not.
To truly arrive on Rosh Hashanah, we need to find a Jew who has lost touch with his/her Judaism and help them “arrive”.