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Take Responsibility

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Straightforward

One of the core themes of the High Holy Days is God’s capacity for and predisposition towards forgiveness, culminating in the day designated and named for forgiveness, Yom Kippur.

But as much as we believe God will forgive anyone, we also believe in the prerequisite requirement to show up and take responsibility. As R’ Jonathan Sacks teaches, forgiveness can only exist where repentance exists; and repentance can only exist where responsibility exists.

Responsibility is a uniquely human quality; it suggests a duty or obligation that can sometimes be burdensome and make you uncomfortable. The Rambam notes that reward and punishment only make sense if humans have moral agency and free choice; or in other words, responsibility. Without choice, it would be unfair and wrong for God to hold you responsible for bad things you did because you were incapable of choosing otherwise; responsibility only exists alongside the ability to choose how to act.

Taking responsibility is the theme of one of the most prominent prayers of the High Holy Days, as well as the span of days before and in between, the Viduy prayer, where everyone publicly confesses a litany of misdemeanors, sins, and wrongdoings while they beat their hearts. There is something beautiful about the entire Jewish people publicly taking responsibility, acknowledging their failures and weaknesses together, and publicly undertaking to do better, even if you’re alone or with total strangers.

It’s beautiful enough that many communities have the custom of singing the confession prayer in tune. It’s not the most upbeat song, but there is an element of happiness and joy in confessing our failings.

The confession isn’t a performative theatrical ritual; honestly acknowledging that you did something wrong is the only way you can begin to fix it. Beyond than being a key technical component of Teshuva, confession is how we take responsibility.

As R’ Shlomo Farhi reminds us, taking responsibility transforms how a slight is observed. If you go to a shopping center with piles of rubble, you won’t go back; but you’d feel differently if the store hung signs asking you to excuse their appearance while they undergo renovations scheduled for completion by April. The acknowledgment makes you more patient and forgiving that the experience was below expectations. 

By confessing to a list of severe transgressions that largely – hopefully – don’t apply to you, perhaps it makes it easier for you to acknowledge some of your genuine shortcomings and makes you a little more empathetic to those of the people in your life; we’re all human, and like you, we have all made mistakes.

But perhaps beyond taking responsibility with the Jewish People, it’s also partly a confession of responsibility for the Jewish People; our sages teach that the Jewish People are responsible for each other, and we confess in the collective plural – אשמנו.

Who have we let down? For every lost soul, every hurt soul, every at-risk teen, every struggling family – how do communal structures and systems enables these outcomes, what does the community do or not do, and what can we do different and hopefully better next time round? Think whose pain you’re not seeing or hearing – בגדנו.

We ought to consider the advice we have given over the year, what guidance our leaders and institutions have given our brothers and sisters, evaluating any negative consequences as part of our responsibility for others – יעצנו רע.

It can only be different or better if you take responsibility and do something about it. Not only is not knowing not an excuse; errors, omissions, and mistakes over things that aren’t your fault are a feature of the confession prayer itself –  על חטא שחטאנו ביודעים ובלא יודעים / בבלי דעת / בשגגה.

If whatever is wrong isn’t your fault, then you can’t do anything differently next time, and nothing can change; it would be impossible to move on and heal from anything wrong with you. You can only do better next time if you can take responsibility.

If you’ve seen two kids playing rough until they get hurt, you know it doesn’t matter if it was a mistake; head injuries don’t require intention, and nor do the things we all do that wind up hurting others.

And if you won’t take responsibility, you are performing empty confession theater, which, with a large scoop of irony, is also a part of the confession prayer – ועל חטא שחטאנו לפניך בוידוי פה.

Accept responsibility for your actions. Be accountable for your results. Take ownership of your mistakes – including the ones that weren’t your fault.

There’s nothing easy about taking responsibility for yourself – it requires enormous reserves of honesty and strength to confront the realization that you are the one that’s been holding yourself back this whole time.

When you take responsibility for yourself, you can stop relying on others to take responsibility for you. You should want to take responsibility for yourself, your life, your family, your friends, your community, and all the people who need you.

A group’s long-term success depends to a large extent on its leader’s willingness to take responsibility for failure; our sages praise people whose words God concurs with, citing the time Moshe intervened to save the Jewish People after the Golden Calf, acknowledging his people’s responsibility for the calamity, and taking responsibility for saving them:

סְלַח־נָא לַעֲון הָעָם הַזֶּה כְּגֹדֶל חַסְדֶּךָ וְכַאֲשֶׁר נָשָׂאתָה לָעָם הַזֶּה מִמִּצְרַיִם וְעַד־הֵנָּהוַיֹּאמֶר ה’ סָלַחְתִּי כִּדְבָרֶךָ׃ – “Please pardon the sin of this people according to Your great kindness, as You have forgiven this people ever since Egypt.” And God said, “I have pardoned, as you have asked.” (14:19,20)

There is a good reason to sing the confession, and it’s the same reason we sing that repentance, charity, and prayer have the power to change the future.

The moment you take responsibility for everything is the moment you can change anything.

Transcending Time

3 minute read
Straightforward

From Rosh Hashana through Sukkos, honey features prominently at the festive meals. Honey is sweet, and it functions as a symbol for the sweet new year we yearn for.

But think about it for a moment, using honey is odd. Honey is sweet, but it comes from bees, which have a painful sting and are not kosher creatures.

Honey is a complex sugar; why don’t we use simple cane sugar, a naturally growing plant that metabolizes into the energy that fuels all living things?

The universe operates on fundamental laws of physics that express empirical facts and describe physical properties of how the natural universe works. One such law is the law of entropy, which describes how natural states tend to undergo increasing decay and disorder over time. Eventually, all things break down.

The Midrash suggests that the notion of Teshuva predates the universe, which suggests that it is of a higher order that transcends its constraints; Teshuva is above space and time, and therefore not subject to entropy.

Creation is an environment where humans can make choices. The nature of a test is that it is challenging; you can pass or fail. As much as God can want us to pass a test, the objective fact remains that tests can and will be failed. But God is not gratuitously cruel and does not set us up to fail; the fact we can fail necessarily requires the existence of Teshuva, so failure is not the end. A person can learn from their mistakes, put it behind them, and move on.

R’ Nechemia Sheinfeld explains that the supernatural aspect of Teshuva is that it unwinds the effect of time and entropy; we can repair our mistakes, removing the decay, leaving only the lesson we have learned. Teshuva is not an after-the-fact solution; it’s baked into the fabric of the creation process, so redemption is structurally possible from the outset.

Existence without Teshuva would be static and stagnant – there would be no recovery from failure or setbacks, no growth, and therefore no life. Teshuva must predate existence, because that’s the only way life can change and become.

With Teshuva, sins and transgressions can be recategorized based on motivation. When Teshuva is motivated by fear, sins are downgraded to accidents and oversights; when motivated by love, sins can become merits. It’s intuitive; the way a person adapts their past mistakes materially affects the way you incorporate the lessons learned to be a better person.

It’s a bit like learning to ride a bicycle. The first time you lose your balance, you fall and hurt yourself. Maybe next time you wear a helmet and pads, and you slowly learn how to keep your balance. If you focus on how bad falling hurts, you’ll never learn to ride the bike. But once you learn to keep your balance, you forget about falling, and maybe you don’t need the pads anymore. You now know how to ride a bicycle.

R’ Shlomo Farhi teaches that this is why the Hebrew word for “year” – שנה – is cognate to the words שני and שנוי – “secondary” and “change” respectively. Today’s achievements are built on the foundations of yesterday; a repetition would be no different from what came first, and a fresh start can’t carry the lessons along the way. This may help explain why we temporarily behave more diligently day between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur – a reliable foundation is the precursor of a strong building.

R’ Meir Shapiro teaches that this is why specifically honey, and not sugar, is the centerpiece of the holiday imagery. Honey is kosher, despite being a product of non-kosher origins, and maybe you get stung. It’s complex, not simple. But doesn’t that sound a lot like Teshuvah? You made mistakes that weren’t so kosher, maybe they stung a little, and they weren’t so simple, but you can learn and grow from them all the same – you’ve made something kosher from something that’s not.

As R’ Nachman of Breslov taught straightforwardly: if you believe you can break, then believe you can fix.

Not Yet Lost

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Straightforward

One of the most beautiful and innovative themes in the Torah is the concept of teshuva – return and repentance. Everything broken and lost can be found, fixed, and restored.

Whatever mistakes we have made, we believe that Hashem loves us and will accept us the moment we make up our minds:

וְשָׁב ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶתשְׁבוּתְךָ, וְרִחֲמֶךָ; וְשָׁב, וְקִבֶּצְךָ מִכָּלהָעַמִּים, אֲשֶׁר הֱפִיצְךָ ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, שָׁמָּה. אִםיִהְיֶה נִדַּחֲךָ, בִּקְצֵה הַשָּׁמָיִםמִשָּׁם יְקַבֶּצְךָ ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, וּמִשָּׁם יִקָּחֶךָ – God will return your captives and have compassion for you; and will return and gather you from all the nations, wherever God has scattered you. Even if you are displaced to the edge of the heavens; that’s where God will gather you from – He will fetch you from there. (30:3,4)

R’ Chaim Brown notes that Hashem promises to find us twice – וְקִבֶּצְךָ / יְקַבֶּצְךָ.

What does the repetition add?

Rav Kook teaches that the first promise is about a physical return to Israel, and the second promise is that God will also return us from the outer edge of the spiritual universe – קְצֵה הַשָּׁמָיִם.

The Sfas Emes teaches that Hashem makes this promise regardless of whatever it is that brought us there to that spiritual wilderness – whether it’s upbringing; bad choices; poor self-control – none of it matters – מִשָּׁם יְקַבֶּצְךָ / וּמִשָּׁם יִקָּחֶךָ.

An astounding number of people today believe they are irredeemable and have done terrible things. But if you’re not an adulterous, idol worshipping murderer, the odds are that you can make amends pretty easily. And even if you are, Hashem doesn’t give up on us!

So forgive yourself for yesterday; make amends today; all for a better tomorrow.

God is Biased

4 minute read
Straightforward

One of Judaism’s signature beliefs is in our personal ability to make amends – Teshuva. 

It’s hard to overstate the significance of this belief.

In sharp contrast, Christianity does not have a framework for humans to make amends; humans are born and remain in a state of sinfulness as a result of the corruption of original sin, which is the theological basis of Jesus’ death as an atonement.

Teshuva is a fundamentally different worldview. 

Teshuva and the personal abilities of atonement and forgiveness are groundbreaking because, in the ancient world, humans lived in fear of their gods. You would try to do right by them, in the hope that they would do right to you; you don’t offend them, so they don’t smite you. The relationship people had with their gods was explicitly transactional; and from a certain perspective, what we might call abusive. 

But in a framework where atonement and forgiveness exist, God isn’t looking to catch you out at all, and the new possibility exists for a very different relationship – not just master and servant, but now something more like parent and child.

Why do we believe we have the ability to atonement and earn forgiveness?

Quite simply, we believe we can make amends because the Torah consistently not only emphasizes that God is not impartial; but that God is biased towards creation – וּבְטוֹב הָעוֹלָם נִדּוֹן /  עוֹלָם חֶסֶד יִבָּנֶה.

The priestly blessing explicitly talks about God’s preferential treatment; Rashi explains it as a wish for God to literally smile at us – יָאֵר ה’ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָ, יִשָּׂא ה’ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ.

As the Shem mi’Shmuel explains, God’s compassion amplifies the steps we take to make amends – ועֹשֶׂה חֶסֶד לַאֲלָפִים. 

The Torah speaks plainly about how compassion will drive God to personally gather up every lost soul and return and restore them from wherever they are:

 וְשָׁב ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת–שְׁבוּתְךָ, וְרִחֲמֶךָ; וְשָׁב, וְקִבֶּצְךָ מִכָּל–הָעַמִּים, אֲשֶׁר הֱפִיצְךָ ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, שָׁמָּה. אִם–יִהְיֶה נִדַּחֲךָ, בִּקְצֵה הַשָּׁמָיִם מִשָּׁם יְקַבֶּצְךָ ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, וּמִשָּׁם יִקָּחֶךָ – God will return your captives and have compassion for you; and will return and gather you from all the nations, wherever God has scattered you. (30:3,4)

Rav Kook teaches that the first promise is about a physical return to Israel, and the second promise is that God will also return us from the outer edge of the spiritual universe – קְצֵה הַשָּׁמָיִם. The Sfas Emes teaches that Hashem makes this promise regardless of whatever it is that brought us there to that spiritual wilderness – whether it’s upbringing; bad choices; poor self-control – none of it matters – מִשָּׁם יְקַבֶּצְךָ / וּמִשָּׁם יִקָּחֶךָ.

The High Holy Day prayers prominently quotes Ezekiel telling his audience, and us, what it will take to avert harsh judgment:

וְהָרָשָׁע כִּי יָשׁוּב מִכּל־חַטֹּאתָו אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה וְשָׁמַר אֶת־כּל־חֻקוֹתַי וְעָשָׂה מִשְׁפָּט וּצְדָקָה חָיֹה יִחְיֶה לֹא יָמוּת. כּל־פְּשָׁעָיו אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לֹא יִזָּכְרוּ לוֹ בְּצִדְקָתוֹ אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂה יִחְיֶה. הֶחָפֹץ אֶחְפֹּץ מוֹת רָשָׁע נְאֻם אֲדֹנָי אלוקים הֲלוֹא בְּשׁוּבוֹ מִדְּרָכָיו וְחָיָה – Moreover, if the wicked one repents of all the sins that he committed and keeps all My laws and does what is just and right, he shall live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions he committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness he has practiced, he shall live. Is it my desire that a wicked person shall die?—says the Lord God. It is rather that he shall turn back from his ways and live. (Ezekiel 18:21-23)

As R’ Jonathan Sacks notes, there is no mention of sacrifice, no mention of a temple, no magic ritual or secret; it’s never too late to change, God will forgive every mistake we’ve made so long as   we are honest in regretting it and doing our best to make it right.

As the Izhbitzer teaches, there are no mistakes, and the world has unfolded up to this moment as intended; which, quite radically, validates sin retroactively, although it should be clear that this teaching has zero prospective or forward-looking value. You are where you are supposed to be today, you were supposed to make that mistake; and now your task is to move forward from it. God is willing to let go of our mistakes; we needn’t hold on so tight.

As R’ Simcha Bunim of Peshischa points out, there’s nothing surprising about humans making mistakes and doing the wrong thing. The big surprise is that we don’t take advantage of our ability to atone and make amends every day – כִּי הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם לֹא-נִפְלֵאת הִוא מִמְּךָ וְלֹא רְחֹקָה הִוא. לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם הִוא / כִּי-קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר מְאֹד, בְּפִיךָ וּבִלְבָבְךָ, לַעֲשֹׂתוֹ.

The conclusion of one of the most moving parts of the prayers unambiguously says that even a person who sinned their entire life can still repent on his deathbed –כי לא תחפץ במות המת, כי אם בשובו מדרכו וחיה ועד יום מותו תחכה לו, אם ישוב מיד תקבלו.

It’s literally not possible to alienate yourself from the Creator Who permeates Creation. As R’ Akiva taught, God Himself cleanses us – וּמִי מְטַהֵר אֶתְכֶם, ‏אֲבִיכֶם שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם, ‏… ‏מַה מִקְוֶה מְטַהֵר אֶת הַטְּמֵאִים, אַף הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מְטַהֵר אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל.

It’s not even difficult! Our sages authorize a wicked man to marry a woman on the condition that he is righteous, on the basis that he might have had a moment’s thought about changing for the better. The Minchas Chinuch notes that this potential thought doesn’t include the confession and follow through required for complete rehabilitation; but the Rogatchover and the Brisker school suggest that the mere thought alone of doing better removes the designation of wicked from a person – because God is biased.

By designing creation with a framework that includes atonement, forgiveness, and Teshuva, God freely admits bias towards the children of creation. In fact, our sages say that a repentant can achieve what saints cannot.

God invites the children of creation to come home – שובו בנים שובבים. There is no need to hold yourself to a higher standard than God.

If you think you can probably be doing a little better in certain respects, you might be right and it could be time to raise your standards. 

It’s not hard, and it’s not far away. Creation has been designed for you to make amends, has been waiting for you to make amends.

What are you waiting for?

Yonah: Rejecting Justice For Mercy

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On Yom Kippur, before the conclusion of the day, we read the story of Yonah, who is summoned by God to travel to Nineveh and warn its residents to repent of their sins or face divine wrath.

Instead, he boards a ship and runs away. Caught in a storm, he orders the terrified sailors to cast him overboard, and a giant fish swallows him. Three days later,  Yonah agrees to go to Nineveh, and the fish vomits him onto the shore. Yonah convinces the entire city of Nineveh to repent and regretting his mission, attempts to die in the desert. God grows a mysterious plant to shield him, then causes it to wither. When Yonah complains about the plant’s removal, God rebukes him.

What is this story’s particular relevance to the themes of the day?

R’ Jonathan Sack notes that the story tells us to recalibrate who we think is capable of change. Simple pagan sailors can change, and so can Israel’s enemies – the people of Nineveh.

When an input changes, the output changes – which is why repentance, prayer, and charity have the power to change our fate. Yonah ran away specifically because he knew that God forgives when people listen.

God prefers mercy over justice, as Yonah himself says – כִּי יָדַעְתִּי, כִּי אַתָּה אֵל-חַנּוּן וְרַחוּם, אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וְרַב-חֶסֶד, וְנִחָם עַל-הָרָעָה.

Throughout the story, we sense Yonah’s effortless ability to make an impact; even when he is literally running from God, he still manages to leave all his shipmates as righteous and upright men making vows and sacrifices to God. He doesn’t jump overboard, which fits his characterization in the story of being frustrated at his ability to save anyone except the people he actually wants to save – his own people.

The nature of a warning prophecy is that it’s not supposed to come true. It is a call to action, warning against continuing in the current direction. A prophecy shows a fork in the road – a successful prophecy is one that doesn’t come true. The story is about hearing a call to action and taking it seriously.

Teshuva happens when we tune in and listen.

With just five words – עוֹד אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם, וְנִינְוֵה נֶהְפָּכֶת – he made an impact on the people of Nineveh that a lifetime of serving his own people had not. He knew what would happen if the people of Nineveh listened when the Jewish People would not – they would attack Israel, because the Jewish people had rejected the option of mercy, and would instead receive justice.

Yonah knew what would happen when Nineveh listened – God would forgive.

Depressed, Yonah went into the desert hoping to die, so God grew a plant overnight to shelter him, at which Yonah recovered and rejoiced. The plant then died as quickly as it grew, and Yonah lamented his situation and wanted to die again.

God then spoke to Yonah and pointed out the egocentric solipsism of his selfish inability to understand a perspective other than his own:

אַתָּה חַסְתָּ עַל-הַקִּיקָיוֹן, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-עָמַלְתָּ בּוֹ וְלֹא גִדַּלְתּוֹ:  שֶׁבִּן-לַיְלָה הָיָה, וּבִן-לַיְלָה אָבָד: וַאֲנִי לֹא אָחוּס, עַל-נִינְוֵה הָעִיר הַגְּדוֹלָה–אֲשֶׁר יֶשׁ-בָּהּ הַרְבֵּה מִשְׁתֵּים-עֶשְׂרֵה רִבּוֹ אָדָם, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדַע בֵּין-יְמִינוֹ לִשְׂמֹאלוֹ, וּבְהֵמָה, רַבָּה – You worry about a little plant, which you did not grow or cultivate, which came and went in a single night – should I not worry for the enormous city of Nineveh, home to 120,000 people who don’t know their right from their left, and all their animals? (4:10,11)

It is selfish and hypocritical to want mercy for ourselves but justice for our enemies. You cannot ask for forgiveness for yourself yet deny it to others, and you don’t always get to choose who to save.

With these provocative thoughts, we move into the crescendo of Yom Kippur’s finale.

It is the final opportunity to ask for mercy, not justice. For everyone, not just ourselves.

Fighting Fate

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For many people, one of the most moving parts of the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur liturgy is the Nesaneh Tokef prayer; which vividly describes the courtroom of judgment and sets the stakes as high as possible – determinations of life, death, and everything in between. 

The prayer affirms that on this day, Heaven determines who will live and who will die, and you take a moment to think about who left us too soon this year. Who will suffer, and who will have it easy; you think of your friend who’s had an awful time recently. Who will be well and who will be weak; you think of that terrible diagnosis you heard about. 

And yet, for all the severity of judgment, the prayer concludes by throwing it out the window entirely. It’s Judgment Day, and sure, your verdict for the year is set today, and this is the decisive moment. But we loudly proclaim that our fate is, in fact, not fixed at all because of the notion that we can choose to change and grow, because repentance, prayer, and charity can change our fate – וּתְשׁוּבָה וּתְפִלָּה וּצְדָקָה מַעֲבִירִין אֶת רֹעַ הַגְּזֵרָה.

The word for repentance means homecoming or return; that however lost we may be, we can always find our way back – תְשׁוּבָה. The word for prayer means introspection; we can always take stock for an honest self-appraisal, evaluating and redirecting our direction – תְפִלָּה. The word for charity means justice; justice is something humans can create and share with others – צְדָקָה. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, the words we say are all aspects of our lives that we have complete agency and control over. 

R’ Micha Berger notes that they parallel the three relationships a person has – charity reflecting our horizontal relationship with each other, prayer reflecting our vertical relationship with God, and repentance reflecting our inner relationship with ourselves. 

R’ Jonathan Sacks teaches that the judgment of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur only determines the default trajectory as things stand, but they are not exhaustively binding or rigidly preordained. We can hold on to hope that, ultimately, we can influence and control our destinies.

If you improve one single characteristic, that constitutes a change substantial enough to change and reshape the future.

Mathematics validates the butterfly effect, where small things have non-linear impacts on a complex system, like a butterfly flapping its wings which through ripple effects causes a typhoon. Small things can have a big impact on the future.

Change yourself, change your fate.

Think Of The Children

< 1 minute
Straightforward

There core components to Teshuva are remorse and making amends. A prerequisite to these is taking ownership of our actions.

Before Moshe died, he warned the Jewish People not to deny or avoid their mistakes:

שִׁחֵת לוֹ לֹא, בָּנָיו מוּמָם: דּוֹר עִקֵּשׁ, וּפְתַלְתֹּל – Destruction is not His – it is His children’s shortcoming; a crooked and twisted generation. (32:5)

R’ Avrohom Shor teaches that our actions shape our realities: anger creates fear and withdrawal, greed alienates partners, gossip erodes trust, and laziness hinders results.

Sometimes making amends is as easy as apologizing, but not always. For example, years of anger and abuse cannot be undone by suddenly turning soft and gentle; we might genuinely want to change, but the resentment caused by years of negativity will linger for quite some time, and we are responsible – שִׁחֵת לוֹ לֹא, בָּנָיו מוּמָם.

How can we mitigate that?

R’ Ahron Belzer remarked that we should allow those our nearest and dearest to see more of our inner lives. It can only be a good thing for them to know that we too are flawed and just trying our best.

It can only be a good thing for our families to know about our good deeds and community work, most especially young children, who learn from example:

הַנִּסְתָּרֹת לַה’ אֱלֹהֵינוּ וְהַנִּגְלֹת לָנוּ וּלְבָנֵינוּ עַד עוֹלָם – The hidden things are Hashem’s; the revealed things are for our children and us for eternity. (29:28)

Those close to us see more than we think. So if you are committed to improving and making amends,  put it on display, so your loved ones can learn and participate – וְהַנִּגְלֹת לָנוּ וּלְבָנֵינוּ עַד עוֹלָם.

When it’s authentic, they should only be supportive and encouraging, and your example will have a ripple effect.

Fool Me Twice..?

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Straightforward

During Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Selichos prayers, we refer to Hashem as old and kind -ותיק ועושה חסד.

While we readily understand the benefits of kindness, it’s an odd thing to call someone “old” and mean in a good way. How does being “old” modify God’s kindness?

Imagine speeding your car down the road and getting pulled over by the police.

Maybe you could talk your way out of it by saying you had a family emergency, and if the police officer is in a good mood, he’ll let you off with a warning.

But what if the very next day, the same police officer pulls you over in the same place for the same offense, and you then give the exact same excuse?

Every year, we make the same promises and the same excuses.

Yet Hashem never tires of us, and that’s the quality we admire here.

That the same old judge from yesterday and a year ago can still bear to listen kindly.