By this, then, will Jacob's guilt be atoned for, and this will be the full fruit of the removal of his sin: When he makes all the altar stones to be like limestone crushed to pieces, no Asherah poles or incense altars will be left standing. - Isaiah 27:9
This Torah portion for this week is Shemot, which means "names," from Exodus 1:1-6:1, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 27:6-28:13; 29:22-23.
I remember one Hanukkah when I had given my granddaughter a toy cellphone. The toy required batteries, and as my little grandchild excitedly ripped open the package, she immediately tried to play with her new gift. But it wasn't working. Frustrated, she handed me the toy so that I might fix it. Before the tears could leave her eyes, I had the battery hatch open and lifted the little ribbon preventing the battery from fully touching the electronic spring. Suddenly the play cellphone came to life. My granddaughter was ecstatic. It had only been that little piece of ribbon - just a tiny bit of interference - that had caused the toy to remain dormant. Once the piece was removed, all systems were go!
Toward the end of this week's Torah reading, Moses encountered God at the burning bush. What's the first thing that God instructed him? "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground" (Exodus 3:5). There are many ways to understand this command, and here is one of them: God was telling Moses - and all of us - to remove anything that separates us from Him. We are standing on holy ground - ground ripe for miracles and holiness. The only thing it will take to fully activate the holiness of our lives is to let go of anything holding us back from God.
In the Haftorah reading, we come across a very similar message. Isaiah says: "Jacob's guilt be atoned for . . . When he makes all the altar stones to be like limestone crushed to pieces no Asherah poles or incense altars will be left standing." In essence, Isaiah was saying get rid of anything standing between you and God.
We all have our hang-ups. We are all born with shortcomings. Our job is to remove the barriers that separate us from God. For some of us it might be a tendency to get angry. For another person, it might be a harmful addiction. For another person, it might be a false belief or a leftover fear that no longer serves us. Still, for others, it might be an attachment to material wealth, honor, power, or any of the other many obstacles in our walk with God. We need to lift these things off us and out of our lives. We need to grind them up and destroy them.
What's keeping you from God? What's holding you back from being your best? Remove the obstacles and break through the barriers, so that like Moses, you might come close to God and merit the privilege of doing His work on the holy ground of our lives. Take away the obstacles between you and God, and activate your best life yet.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President