Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Taking Something from The Days of Awe into the Rest of the Year

Here's a chutzpah (pretty cool that "chutzpah" has its own wikipedia page!):  A bloke on motorcycle cut me off today when he zipped into the bike lane.  That's not the chutzpah.  A few seconds later a car door opened that narrowly missed him, so he started yelling at the door opener to be more careful!

His chutzpah, as blatant as it was, seems to pale in comparison to the chutzpah I exhibited 10 times on Yom Kippur and dozens of times throughout the Days of Awe.  Howso?  Before each vidui (ashamnu, bagadnu, gazalnu, ...), is an introduction:
Our G‑d and G‑d or our ancestors.  May our prayers come before you; may You not ignore our supplications.  For we are not so brazen nor stubborn to say: HaShem, our G‑d and G‑d of our ancestor, we are wholly righteous and have not sinned!  In truth, though, we and our ancestors have sinned.
Really?  I have to reassure the Creator of the universe that during this most awesome time of year, and especially on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, a time distinguished by HaShem's Holy Presence being close and (so to speak) eager for our sincere repentance, that I am not going to try an pull the wool over His Celestial Eyes and claim that really I am wholly righteous and haven't really sinned at all?  Really?

Yes, really.  In explaining the mitzvah of דן לכף זכות/giving the benefit of the doubt, the Chafeitz Chaim says that just like can always finds extenuating circumstances and excuses for our behaviour, we should use that well honed character trait to benefit others.  We are expert and being able to explain and excuse our most egregious behaviours.  From "I was tired/not feeling well... so I snapped", to "the way I was raised left me with a tendency for this behaviour, so it's really not my fault", to... you can fill in all the blanks you want.

So during this most awesome time of year, and especially on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, a time distinguished by HaShem's Holy Presence being close and (so to speak) eager for our sincere repentance, I take that opportunity to actually not make excuses.  No, in truth, I have sinned.  Moreover, I saw that my ancestors sinned and how they regretted it and did not benefit, yet I still sinned.  I have no excuses, no pretenses; I have nothing but regret and shame.

How do we do that?  How do we live through that?  In our prayer, we change from "the Holy G‑d", to "the Holy King".  What's the difference?  G-d is something wholly separate from us.  He is called holy even my be most spiritually elevated beings; all the more so, us.  But the King?  There is not King without a nation.  The King is not separate from His nation, He is the Head of His nation.  Before we open ourselves up completely to shame and regret, HaShem wants us to know and feel... we are His nation; we are bound to Him and Him to us.

We are back to "the Holy G‑d", but that exquisite 10 days of closeness, of "the Holy King" (for whom we are His nation), leaves it's impression and makes us different this year than last.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…