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Oil, Repentance, and the New Year

by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow

  

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We live in an age of internationally rising oil consumption, which is in turn driving the price of crude oil to unprecedented heights. Our fear of quickly diminishing yet finite oil reserves is only compounded by the threat of instability in the Middle East.

In short, high demand, low refinery capacity, and instability in the Middle East are causing the price of crude oil to rise sky high. The response has been threefold.

OPEC’s response has been to raise (or at least to promise to raise) production and if necessary to uncap new wells. The government’s response has been to (promise to) invest in new refinery capacity. The consumer’s response has been to reduce demand.

As Rosh Hashanah approaches we reflect upon this to glean an insight into our relationship with G-d. G-d and the Jewish people share a loving relationship. A finite number of Mitzvahs, namely 613, are the energy source that fuels this relationship.

When we regularly execute the Mitzvahs our relationship flourishes and grows. Our transgressions, however, place great demand on the relationship, as every sin weakens the bond yet we expect to be treated with the same measure of love. In other words we consume more than we produce.

In a relationship, when a friendship is violated, the friends must tap into a new and deeper bond between them in order to justify the continuance of the relationship. This is the essence of Teshuvah
Our response must be threefold.

First we must increase production or at least make sincere resolutions in this regard. This means to undertake new Mitzvahs that will fuel our relationship. This effort is facilitated through tapping into new potential reserves and digging new wells; through research of new possibilities and expanding the horizon of our relationship.

When an oil well is depleted the prospector must dig deeper in order to find a source, as of yet untapped, and refill the empty well. So too, in a relationship. When a friendship is violated, and the love depleted, the friends must tap into a new and deeper bond between them in order to justify the continuance of the relationship. This is the essence of Teshuvah.

In sin our relationship with G-d fails. We must dig deep down into the well of our hearts to find new intensity, yet untapped. We must find the dimension of our soul that has remained faithful even in sin, and thus spark a renewal of our love.

We must uncap new wells. We must unearth new energy sources by reaching into the deepest chamber of our core to bring out the pure and incorruptible essence that forms the basis of our continued relationship.

Second, we must increase refinery capacity. We must engage in introspective self-reflection with an aim towards refining our character. Mitzvahs are G-d-centered; sins are self-centered. Turning from a self-centered worldview to a G-d centered worldview is a humbling and incredibly character refining experience.

Third, we must reduce consumption. Facing and reducing the ego places into perspective the demands we place upon G-d. We expect much but offer little. This humbling experience allows us to trust in G-d with absolute faith, which will in turn sustain us even in difficult times.

May we all merit increased production, increased refinery capacity, and new sources of spiritual energy. May we decrease our demand but G-d increase our consumption through a shower of blessing and love. May He grant us a good year filled with happiness, health and the ability to enjoy it.

Shannah Tovah

Rabbi Gurkow, a member of the Askmoses team of scholars, is spiritual leader of congregation Beth Tefilah in London, Ontario. He has lectured extensively on a variety of Jewish topics, and his articles have appeared in many print and online publications. For more on Rabbi Gurkow and his writings and talks, please go to www.innerstream.ca.


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Holidays » Yom Kippur » Repentance
Holidays » Rosh Hashanah » Essays

Teshuvah
Repentance. Or, more literally, "return" to G-d. Teshuvah involves regretting the past and making a firm resolution not to repeat the offense.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.