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Weekly Chizuk

Preparing for Yom Kippur

Don't Say If Only… It's Up to You!

R. Kruspedai said in the name of R. Yochanan: Three books are opened on Rosh Hashana: one for the absolute resho'im (utterly wicked), one for the pure tzaddikim (wholly good), and one for the beinonim - the average class of people. The wholly righteous are at once inscribed and sealed for life; the entirely wicked are at once inscribed and sealed for death; the average class are held in the balance from Rosh Hashana till Yom Kippur; if they prove themselves worthy they are inscribed for life, if not they are inscribed for death. (Rosh Hashana 16b)

A person should always view himself (equally balanced) half guilty, and half meritorious. If he performs one mitzvah he is happy for he has weighted himself to the side of merit. If he performs one aveira, woe to him, for he has weighted himself to the side of guilt. (Kiddushin 40b)

Rava said, "We are the beinonim." Abaye answered him, "(If you are a beinoni) you don't give anyone else a chance! (lit. You've left nothing over for the rest of Mankind!) (Brachos 61b)

During the 10 days of Repentance (Aseres Yamei Teshuva), we should all consider ourselves, at most, beinonim (average people - whose fate is undecided). This is a very precarious state as our lives stand in the balance. Rav Kruspedai says that the beinoni's judgement is not finalized on Rosh Hashana. Rather he is left "standing there hanging". Moreinu v'Rabbeinu Rav Zeidel Epstein, zt"l, used to say that Chazal are illustrating their point with vivid imagery. We shouldn't make the common mistake that the judgment is postponed: the Beis Din Shel Maalah is left undecided and so they file away the case for 10 days until they have a new hearing. No. Rav Kruspedai tells us that there already was a judgment. The beinoni is judged and is left literally hanging. We must imagine ourselves standing at the gallows, just like the civil war movies. They put us on a chair, and put the noose around our neck. We are not free. We are standing there sweating, unable to move. If we do teshuva and sincerely take upon ourselves to be better people, then on Yom Kippur they will finish the case and take us down and give us another chance at life. But if we do not do sincere teshuva, by Yom Kippur, they kick the chair away and ….

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Just before Rosh Hashana, we read the parsha of teshuva in Parshas Netzavim. The possuk there says, "It is not in Heaven… nor is it across the ocean…. This thing is very close to you, in your mouth and heart to do it" (Devorim 30:12-14). The Targum Yerushalmi offers a very interesting interpretation of this possuk:

"It is not in Heaven…" saying that if only we had a Navi as great as Moshe to go up to Heaven and bring it down to us, then we would listen to the commandments and perform them. "It is not over the ocean," saying that if only we had one like Yona the Navi to go down to the depths of the sea to bring it up to us, then we would listen to the commandments and perform them.

The nature of a person is to rationalize and justify his imperfections by moaning, "If only I had my rebbe back. He used to direct me and set me straight. But now that he is gone, what can I do?" This is his way of excusing himself by claiming that if only his rebbe were alive today, he would keep him on the straight and narrow. But since his rebbe is no longer with him, he just can't make it. Therefore he's not responsible for his shortcomings.

Thus, comes along the possuk and admonishes him. "It isn't in Heaven." Don't say, what can we do? If only we had Moshe Rabbeinu back again. What can we do? If only we had a prophet like Yona. That's not true. "It is very close to you, in your mouth and heart to do it." You don't need Moshe Rabbeinu or Yona Hanavi to help you. Your success is within you, now. It all depends upon you. If you try to cleanse yourself from all your aveiros and tuma, you'll get siyata d'shmaya and succeed with the power you have within yourself.

We went through our yeshiva years with our rebbes and teachers to guide us. We came to rely on them to get us out of our quagmire. They were our lifeline to sanity. Now we have come to a stage in our lives when our mentors are no longer at our side to give us direction and inspiration. What do we do?

I want to relate to you a moshel that the famous Rebbe Bunim of P'shischa used to recount. He retold it regarding the Chassidim visiting the Rebbe, but the message is just as relevant to us:

There was a Yid by the name of Isaac who lived in Cracow. Several nights in a row he dreamt that he must travel to the king's palace Prague, and dig under the bridge leading to the palace. There he would find a treasure that would make him fantastically wealthy.

So Reb Isaac arrived in Prague and immediately headed to the bridge which led to the king's palace. As he got closer to the bridge he saw that the area was tightly patrolled by the royal guard 24 hours a day. He couldn't get near the bridge.

Reb Isaac was now deeply disturbed. Here he was, exhausted from the long journey to Prague, for nothing! He would have to go home empty handed. In a mental turmoil he paced back and forth on the street in front of the bridge for the rest of the day. His mind was buried deep in his thoughts dreaming of the hidden treasure just out of his reach. As evening fell, he went to hunt for lodgings at the local inn. The next day he returned and again paced up and down, dreaming about the treasure awaiting him.

The captain of the guard spotted this disheveled Jew pacing up and down for 2 days in front of the palace and started getting suspicious. This Jew seemed spellbound by some thought and had a frantic look in his eyes. He decided to investigate and find out why he was reconnoitering near the palace. "Listen here, Jew. What's going on? What's your business here near the palace? Why do you keep coming back and walking up and down?"

So Reb Isaac told him about the dream and the treasure that was waiting him under the bridge. He had come all this way; he couldn't go home empty handed. Upon hearing this, the captain burst out laughing. "You really believe in dreams?! They don't mean anything! You came all the way from Crakow because of a dream?

"How could a person as intelligent as you believe dreams? Want to know something? I too had a dream that I should travel to Crakow and there in the house of some Reb Isaac is a treasure buried under his oven. Did I ever take this dream seriously to head straight out for Crakow? Ridiculous. Dreams don't mean anything!"

Reb Isaac couldn't believe his ears. His heart started pounding. He suddenly realized why he had to come to Prague. He had to hear the Captain of the Royal Guard tell him that the treasure was not in Prague, but right under his nose in Cracow! He immediately returned home, dug under the oven, found the treasure, and became immensely wealthy. With his new found wealth he built a Shul which bears his name to this very day.

This is how Rebbe Bunim concluded. When you go to your rebbe, you have to know that the main point of your journey to him is not to find your treasure by the rebbe, but to find the treasure inside of your own house. When you return home you have to start digging in your soul and find the treasure. If you search hard enough you will find it. For "it is very close to you, in your mouth and heart to do it."

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I wish everyone that you all be written and sealed in the Book of the Living for a wonderful, prosperous, and healthy New Year.

Wishing Everyone A Gut Gebensht Yahr!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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