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A Little Help from my Friend


A few years ago, a study investigated the success rates of lifestyle changes when a spouse was involved in the same change. The study found that if one partner is trying to lose weight, there is a greater chance of success if their spouse is also trying to lose weight. 

However, other changes were not affected as much by the spouse. Specifically, if one spouse wants to quit smoking or exercise regularly, their success rates were not necessarily dependent on whether the other spouse does the same.

The lead researcher couldn’t figure out why there is a distinction between weight loss and other activities, in her words “this needs more investigation.” 

Be that as it may, we can see from this week’s parasha, that when it comes to spiritual matters, Judaism teaches that we do much better when we are partnered with others who are also on a path of growth. 

Our parasha describes the b’rachot (blessings) that we receive if we observe the Torah. One of those verses reads: “You shall be blessed in the city, and you shall be blessed in the field,” (D’varim 28:3).

Why does the Torah single out the city?

R.Chaim Sofer (1821-1886), in his Divrei Sha’arei Chaim, has two 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. This is a b’racha that they can observe their Judaism openly. 

Second, it is a b’racha that our observance of Torah and mitzvot is not limited to our own private lives, but that it impacts those around us.

Some people approach Rosh HaShanah with personal goals that might be similar to our friends and family. However, we often don’t do enough to harness the power of working together to reach those goals. If we create platforms and opportunities to work together on those goals, we can be on the giving and receiving end of a program that is on a path towards success.