Lo Bashamaim hi.
The Torah is not in the heavens. The Talmud illustrates this with a story we have shared before, the story of Taanuro shel Hachnay, Hachnay's oven, in which, during a rabbinical debate, one of the rabbis called upon the heavens as a witness. He said that if he was correct in the discussion they were having, the walls of the yeshiva where they were would lean in; and the walls indeed leaned. Still, no one took his version as true because, in reality, the debate was on Earth, no longer in the heavens.
This concept comes from this Torah portion, Nitzavim. Moses tells the people of Israel that we should not seek the Torah in the heavens because it is not there. He also says that we should not seek it beyond the sea, which is very earthly. This dichotomy may seem confusing, so where is it then?
What he is telling us with this apparent confusion is that we should not seek it beyond our domain. That's why, clarified about the sea, we shouldn't seek it in other cultures; we shouldn't search for truth in other things that surround us like fortune-tellers or magicians.
Moses knew this. Don't forget that this is all a story of Moses sitting with the people of Israel around him, and he is telling them exactly that. Don't look to the surrounding nations for truths that are not true. And the people failed. They sought in the Canaanite gods for identification. It wasn't there; the truth was in the Torah that they possessed themselves.
Throughout history, we have continued to do this. We look elsewhere to find truths that can fulfill us. In reality, the message of the Kadosh Baruch Hu has been given since before Sinai; it has been given since Abraham and reaches us. If you are not finding it, it's because you are not looking in the right place.
We are very close, too close, to Rosh Hashanah. A new year begins, and perhaps in this new year, we should see where we are seeking our spirituality. Our Creator gives us countless possibilities, countless paths within the community to find it. Try reciting the Shema twice a day. Seek that moment of daily introspection that makes us review our day every night and thank the Creator for what He has given us every morning. This will give you humility and position you within your spirit to start the day well and end it better.
Seek each of the Mitzvot. In one of them, you will find how to approach it, how to find your place, how to feel better. Start with one, start with 2, 3, 4. If you already have ten, increase it, go for 11. The key is fine-tuning, every step, every year, every month. See and review what we are doing and try to do it better.
Lo Bashamaim hi. It is not in the heavens, nor beyond the sea. You must find it here, in your community, in your family, within yourself, in this ancient history and tradition that we carry, which, of course, with all its components, helps us become better people. Strive for a better community, strive to be a better people, a light for the nations, so that people might see one of the possible paths that lead us to a better world.
Shabbat Shalom and LeShana Tova Tikatevu veTejatemu. May we have an excellent year, a year of community building and a good seal.
Rabbi Gustavo Geier