As we discussed last week, these 10 Days of Repentance offer us an opportunity to be cleansed of our sins. King Solomon taught that since we do not know the day we die, we should be careful to remove ourselves from sin daily, so we might receive our afterlife without punishment. He taught this in a metaphor, “At all times let your clothes be white…” “White” means that we are clean from sin.
With this in mind, at this time in which God seals our fate, it is urgent that we use these remaining hours wisely. We can secure a year of happiness, health, wealth…and life. But we must follow God’s directives. We must reflect, repent, seek forgiveness from others we have wronged, fast, and attend Temple services…how ever long they might be, it is just one day. One day, and we can secure God’s favor and blessings.
And not only can you secure your own fate, but show the utmost concern for your family and friends. Inform those who might not fast and pray, why they should. It might take some discussion, but their lives are worth your best attempt. I did this today with a friend, and surprisingly, it paid off. He might go to temple and he said he would fast. Perhaps it is our displayed concern for others, that emotional gratification they feel when we express our care, that they are touched and moved enough so as to respond and fast…even if only to reciprocate our care. Use your relationship with others to touch them with your concern, and you too might be surprised as was I. So make a few calls and urge others to join you. You can then explain to them the service as it progresses, and even make the day enjoyable for him or her.
Now, as we are to repent in these last, precious hours, I will briefly mention some of the hurdles we each might face in our repentance. Once identified, a problem is sometimes halfway solved.
First of all, we must be convinced of the numerous, prophetic verses reminding us that God knows all our thoughts, and holds us accountable. We get so used to our daily lives, we don’t truly feel things will change…we don’t feel we will die, and have to answer for our sins. Now is the time to accept our mortality. Truly realizing this, we must feel very concerned for ourselves. So become convinced that all God’s words through the prophets are 100% true. Previous prophets, who led Israel subsequent to Moses, endorsed all the following prophets’ writings, which exist. The prophets were also endorsed by God’s miracles and His prophecies.
So we will receive punishment for our sins, as the Torah and Prophets teach.
Therefore we must repent to avoid this. In contrast, if we eat on Yom Kippur, we lose our afterlife. If we do not join an assembly of ten men in prayer, we are not subject to God’s greater providence over the nation, which receives far greater favor, than His providence over the individual. We must be truly concerned not to forfeit that great reward.
We must reflect on why our personal sins are wrong. For without this knowledge, we will repeat the sin, and add to our injury, and loss. So, either learn why a given sin is wrong and change yourself, or teach another who needs your knowledge. Once we recognize the damage we self-inflict, we will desire to repent.
Many times, it is our self-image that prevents us from repenting, or seeking forgiveness from others. We do not wish to admit error. But we must not let ego cause us to forfeit our afterlife. For the shame we suffer here for a few moments will insure an eternity of good. Conversely, if we seek to maintain our ego, we thereby sacrifice something in the afterlife. It is simply not worth the fleeting, momentary ego to lose something eternal.
Additionally, we must not seek social accolades or insulate ourselves from embarrassment, in place of God’s approval.
Last week we cited the Talmud that teaches that all our needs are determined during this time. The Torah teaches that God forgives during this time.
I wish all of you a meaningful conclusion to these days of repentance, and a day of fasting and prayer that secures the good that God wishes for you. And reach out to others so we all share in a good, happy, healthy and wealthy year.
Let us also remember that the meaning behind all the physical blessings is to enable our greater involvement in what brings us the most enjoyment and meaning: Torah study. It may very well be that the avoidance of Torah in place of seeking greater wealth will in fact diminish our wealth. Since Torah study and teaching is the greatest mitzvah, our lack of it must bring us the greatest punishment. It is certainly true that the lack of the greatest area of Torah knowledge – knowledge of God – has brought Jews to all forms of idolatry, including the many Jewish forms that we have discussed all year. And God has punished us many times for this. The very first generation after Joshua committed idolatry…we do too. From Kabbalistic mysticism, deification of Rebbes as holy, miracle workers, praying to the dead, and red bendels…to Amen groups, challah baking and other superstitions, we see that true Torah fundamentals concerning what God is and how He works, are severely lacking.
It is up to today’s leaders to risk unpopularity, and teach Torah fundamentals. The Torah teaches that the leaders are punished, when they do not correct individuals. I therefore hope that we all seek truth, and teach truth, to seek God’s favor, not the favor of man.