In the ethics code of the Israeli Defense Forces, the following is considered its chief value: “Tenacity of Purpose in Performing Missions and Drive to Victory – The IDF servicemen and women will fight and conduct themselves with courage in the face of all dangers and obstacles; They will persevere in their missions resolutely and thoughtfully even to the point of endangering their lives.”
This week we read the double portion of Nitzavim/VaYelekh. In the second of the two portions/parshiyot, God promises to be with us during the battles that are coming in attempting to cross the border into the Promised Land. God tells us, “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you/חִזְקוּ וְאִמְצוּ, אַל-תִּירְאוּ וְאַל-תַּעַרְצוּ מִפְּנֵיהֶם. כִּי ה' אֱלֹקיךָ, הוּא הַהֹלֵךְ עִמָּךְ, לֹא יַרְפְּךָ וְלֹא יַעַזְבֶךָּ.” The question here is, what exactly is the meaning of “dread/ta’artzu/תערצו”? We are already not told not to be afraid, so what does this add?
Onkelos, in the classic Aramaic translation of the Torah, translates this word, “dread/ta’artzu/תערצו”, as “broken/titavrun/תתברון.” The Netziv points out that this “dread” is about a single battalion. If in the course of battle, they find themselves alone and are tempted to give themselves over to the enemy, they should trust that God is with them and not give themselves up. The simple meaning/p’shat is that this is referring to a real battle with a real external enemy.
However, all external battles can be read as internal ones as well. Though we are constantly in a struggle with our evil inclinations/yeitzer ha’ra/יצר הרע, that battle is never highlighted as much as it is now, during the Hebrew month of Elul and the days from Rosh HaShanah through Yom Kippur. During this time, we must look inside ourselves and take up the challenging task of shining a light on the parts of us that we wish could be better. It is often too easy to look at parts of ourselves that we do not like and think that we can leave it alone. “Nobody is perfect,” or “I will work on that later,” are things we might say to ourselves to justify our behavior in moments of weakness. I know I have said these things.
Our parsha is coming to challenge this desire. Do not give up any part of yourself. Struggle to clear those parts of yourself of potential dangers. This is not easy. Change is scary and uncertain. But remember, God is with us and will not abandon us. This week, as we kick up the intensity of our internal surge leading up to Rosh HaShanah, let us not give in to our fear of change. Let us be thoughtful and resolute. Let us cross over strongly and boldly into a blessed and sweet New Year.
 Deut. 31:6
 Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin (1816 in Mir, Russia – August 10, 1893 in Warsaw, Poland), also known as Reb Hirsch Leib Berlin, and commonly known by the acronym Netziv, was an Orthodox rabbi, dean of the Volozhin Yeshiva and author of several works of rabbinic literature in Lithuania.
 Ha’Emek Davar Deut. 31:6
Rabbi Ezra Balser has been the rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom since July 1, 2016. He received his “smicha” (ordination) in June 2017 from Hebrew College while also earning a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies. He has also received the iCenter's Certification in Israel Education.