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September 18-19, 1999 8 Tishri 5760

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Remember us for life, O King who desires life" (Amidah - Ten Days of Teshubah)

During the Ten Days of Teshubah we ask Hashem for life. During our busy schedules we tend to take life for granted. On the night of Yom Kippur, all Jews around the world recite the Kal Nidre. Kal Nidre is another form of hatarat nedarim, which is an annulment of vows. Tradition has it that the Kal Nidre service originated in Spain. The Jews had a glorious period of growth and prosperity until the terrible Spanish Inquisition began. Many good Jews were forced to accept Christianity in order to save their lives. On the night of Yom Kippur they would secretly gather in caves and basements. There they would recite in front of all the people the words of Kal Nidre, to annul all of the vows of Christianity that they were forced to accept. What a struggle these people went through! How fortunate are we.

As I have mentioned many times, we must ask Hashem on a daily basis for long life with good health. In our prayer of "Remember us for life," we ask for life. However, we must have a clear definition of life in our minds as we ask for it. Rabbi Matityahu Solomon once said: life means different things for different people. For most people it means simply to live. However, to some people their house is their life. To some their car is their life, and to others, their baseball team is their life. A person must avoid making these things so important that they become that person's "life-wish," prompting Hashem to answer this foolish wish instead of granting him the most important gift of life.

May Hashem grant us all long life in good health, Amen. Shabbat Shalom.

by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

When we think of teshubah, repentance, we usually think of sins that we did or misvot that we neglected. Indeed that is the basic level of repentance, to wipe out all sins from our records. However, there is another concept that we should focus on, especially during these days.

There was a great Rabbi, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Berlin, known as the Netziv, who once invited his family and friends to a festive meal. He explained that he had just finished composing a very complex book, and that called for a celebration. He then told his family that when he was a young boy he was a playful child, not interested in studying. One day, he heard his father tell his mother, "Maybe our little son would be more successful as a tradesman rather than a scholar." The young boy burst into his parents' room and cried out, "Give me one more chance and I'll apply myself to my studies," and the rest was history. The Rabbi then concluded by saying, "Imagine if I had become a tailor, a pious Jew who learns every day for a while, and after 120 years went to the Heavenly court. I would think that my judgment would be based on what I did as a tailor, but the Heavenly court would show me this book that I have just finished, and would ask me, 'Where is this work that you could have done?' That is why I am celebrating today - because I will be able to say that I did what was my potential."

We see from here that it's not enough to just consider what we do or don't do. We should ask ourselves, "Are we living up to our potential?" We have so much talent and capabilities. We have to exert ourselves a little more in the service of Hashem. In these days of teshubah let us re-examine our lives, our accomplishments and our goals, and let us see where we can make a difference. Tizku Leshanim Rabot.

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