There is a fairly controversial book that came out in the past few years entitled, The Surrendered Wife (2001), and it’s follow-up-book, The Empowered Wife (2017).
The premise of the book is that essentially if the wife surrenders to her husband, he will have no choice to reciprocate her love and affection and she can single handedly save a bad or broken marriage.
Naturally, our egalitarian society doesn’t like the notion that a woman must “subjugate” herself even in the effort to save the bigger picture of a marriage.
I am not here to approve of the book or knock it, only to learn a deep and powerful lesson from it as it relates to Rosh Hashanah and the High Holidays.
The Hayom Yom of yesterday, the 26th of Elul reads as follows: It is written, Atem nitzavim hayom, “You stand this day.” This day refers to Rosh Hashana which is the day of Judgment. Yet you remain standing firmly upright (nitzavim), meaning – you will be vindicated in judgment.
Essentially, what it is communicating is that we should stand upright and confident (Nitzvavim) on this day (of Rosh Hashanah) Note: This portion is always read in the lead up to Rosh Hashanah, and that is intentional and by design. Basically, it is saying, stand strong and confident because Gd is assuring us that you will be vindicated in judgement.
Now, that isn’t a great arrangement? If Gd wants to repent and repair ourselves, why are we being told in advance of the day of judgement, “oh, don’t worry, you will be vindicated? How does that motivate us to do good and heal our relationship?
The answer is, similar to the concept conveyed in the “surrendered wife.” It is not about her being weak or “less than” it is about the fact that no (mentally healthy) person can withstand the unconditional love and affection of another and not be moved enough to get over themselves and reciprocate.
If this is true among friends, couples, it is most certainly true when dealing with a relationship with Gd. The Chassidic masters are assuring us that Gd will vindicate you. They are not saying it so that we will become lazy and sit on the couch and say that we don’t need to show up at Shul because the job is done already?!
They are saying that Gd is giving us the greatest gift of unconditional love and unconditional forgiveness. That love inevitably awakens within us deep feeling of reciprocal love and we are pulled into Gd’s vortex and almost cannot help ourselves but to want to go and love Gd back in His language. The language of prayer, repentance, Torah study and good deeds.
So, lets enter the pre-Rosh Hashanah Shabbos with the confidence that comes with the assurance that we are going to be forgiven for all misdeeds and reciprocate that Divine gift, with a divine gift of our own!