Editor’s note: With a double parsha this week and the calendar edging closer towards Rosh Hashana, we present a second Torah column. Rabbi Etengoff is dedicating the following dvar Torah in memory of his sister-in-law, Ruchama Rivka Sondra, and the refuah shlaimah of Yosef Shmuel ben Miriam.
Judaism is, first and foremost, a religion of action wherein the deed, in the form of the mitzvah, is the primary mode of connecting with the Almighty.
Little wonder then, that one of Judaism’s greatest heroes and spiritual giants was none other than Nachshon ben Aminadav, the first person to enter the Yam Suf (Sea of Reeds) in expectation of Hashem’s imminent salvation.
Indeed, Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah 13:7 teaches us that his name foreshadowed the literal leap of faith that will forever remain emblazoned in the memory of our people: “Why was he named Nachshon? This was because he was the first to go into the surging waves of the Sea (nachshol sheb’yam).
“The Holy One blessed be He said to Moshe: ‘He who has sanctified my name in the Sea will be he who will bring the first sacrifice [in the dedication of the altar in the dessert].’” Nachshon was a true hero who embraced action, driven by the noble spiritual desire to sanctify Hashem’s name.
This week’s parshiot call upon us to symbolically emulate Nachshon, to jump into the Yam Suf of our lives and do teshuvah:
“And it will be, when all these things come upon you the blessing and the curse which I have set before you that you will consider in your heart, among all the nations where the Lord your G-d has banished you, and you will return to the Lord, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul, and you will listen to His voice according to all that I am commanding you this day you and your children, then, the Lord, your G-d, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you.” (Devarim 30:1-3)
In order to do heartfelt and meaningful teshuvah, we need to know what its constitutive elements are. Maimonides devoted an entire section of his Mishneh Torah to this topic. Thus, in Sefer Madda, Hilchot Teshuvah (2:2), he asks, “What is teshuvah?” Summarized, it contains four key elements: