A recent study delved into the success rates of lifestyle changes when a spouse was involved in the same endeavour. The findings were quite revealing: when one partner aimed to lose weight, the chances of success significantly increased if their spouse was also on a weight loss journey. However, the success rates weren’t as closely tied to spousal involvement when it came to quitting smoking or establishing a regular exercise routine.
The lead researcher couldn’t explain the distinction between weight loss and other activities, emphasizing that this phenomenon “needs more investigation.”
This study brings to mind the wisdom embedded in the Torah. Our rabbis have long believed that we thrive and excel in our spiritual pursuits when we walk the path of growth with others. This notion is beautifully reflected in last week’s Parsha (Devarim 28:3), which describes the abundant blessings that come with observing the Torah.
ברוך אתה בעיר וברוך אתה בשדה.
“Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field.”
Why does the Torah single out blessings specifically in the context of a city? R’ Chaim Sofer (Hungary, 1821-1886), one of the most distinguished students of the famed Chatam Sofer (although unrelated), has two interesting suggestions. First, some people are comfortable performing mitzvot at home, but when they are out in public, in the presence of non-Jews, they want to conceal their Judaism. The Torah’s blessing is the opportunity for them to observe their Judaism openly. Additionally, it is a blessing that our observance of Torah and mitzvot is not limited to our private lives but also impacts those around us.
As we approach Rosh Hashanah with shared goals and values within our community, let us harness the tremendous power of working together. Much of the liturgy during the Yamim Noraim (High Holidays) is written in the plural, emphasizing our collective responsibility and shared journey. For instance, in Selichot we say every morning: “חטאנו לפניך רחם עלינו” – “We have sinned before you, have mercy on us.”
Embracing this communal approach enables us to mutually provide and receive support as we set out on our shared journey towards blessings and success, capitalizing on the strength of our partnership along our spiritual path. Together, we can accomplish remarkable feats, bolster each other, and derive inspiration from our shared values and objectives. May the approaching year overflow with blessings and achievements for each and every one of us.
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay