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Just Turn Your Head

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"Son of man, describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins. Let them consider its perfection, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple-its arrangement, its exits and entrances-its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations." - Ezekiel 43:10-11

The Torah portion for this week is Tetzaveh, which means "contributions," from Exodus 27:20-30:10, and the Haftorah is from Ezekiel 43:10-27.

Every day is another chance to change our lives and ourselves for the better. And yet, so many of us wake up in the morning all set to change, only to be reminded how difficult it is to do that. Very often, we become discouraged and overwhelmed and end the day just as we had started.

In Psalm 103:12, we read, "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." However, the Jewish understanding of the verse is not quite as optimistic. The Jewish translation of the verse is "as far as the east is from the west, so far have our transgressions removed us from Him." Our sins distance us greatly from God. But don't get depressed yet. As one rabbi explained, closing that distance doesn't take much.

"How far is east from west?" asked Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk. Then the rabbi continued, "East and west are right next to each other. All you need to do is change the direction of your head." Physically speaking, the rabbi was saying that to change your head from facing east to facing west proves that east and west are right next to each other - what matters is which direction you are facing. Spiritually speaking, it also means that when we change our head - when we change our mindset - we immediately close the gap that threatens our closeness to God.

In this week's Haftorah reading, God directed the prophet Ezekiel to "describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins . . . and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple . . ." All God asked of the people was that they would become ashamed of their sins. If they acknowledged what they had done wrong, regretted it, and decided never to repeat those mistakes again, that's all it took to restore their relationship with God.

On one hand, change is, indeed, hard. On the other hand, all it takes is a turn of the head; a change in direction; a change of heart. Once we change directions, we are already different because we have changed our ultimate destination.

This week, let's search out and acknowledge where we might be headed in the wrong direction. It's tempting to sweep our bad habits under the proverbial rug, but let's try looking at those things that we might have stowed away for too long. God loves us and wants to have a relationship with us no matter what. All He asks is that we acknowledge our shortcomings and sincerely regret them. Only then we will be heading in the right direction - toward God!

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President


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