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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Yom Kippur

Parshat Yom Kippur

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Yom Kippur Edition
10th of Tishrei, 5778 | September 30, 2017

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Chaim Rosenfeld
The Delete Key

Nearly one hundred years ago, the Chofetz Chaim remarked that the reason motion pictures were invented was to help man visualize Divine judgment. We will all need to give an accounting for our actions after viewing the “movie” of our life when we leave this world.

To bring this point home, consider the following episode about a man named Harry.

It was a stormy night during the Aseres Yemei Teshuva, the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I had been on my computer for a number of hours when, all of a sudden, I heard a loud clap of thunder. The lights went out for a few moments, though when the power was restored, I noticed a strange, new icon on my computer screen. It was a picture of a ladder leading to the heavens with angels ascending and descending. Underneath appeared an intriguing name, the Gates of Heaven. Naturally, I was cynical. Sure, Hashem has a website and uses Windows 2000. Still, I could not contain my curiosity and clicked with my mouse on the icon. Three columns appeared on my computer screen. The Book of Life, the Book of Death and Undecided. I thought to myself, “What a cute idea for the Aseres Yemei Teshuva,” and just for fun, I typed my name into the search field.

To my disbelief, my name appeared underneath the Undecided column. I was annoyed at what happened, and figured that it was a practical joke. But then I moved the mouse to click on my name, which prompted a new screen to open with an amazing but chilling sight.

Harry, age 47, Mitzvos (good deeds): 49,832,562; Aveiros (sins): 62,521,724; Status: Rasha (wicked).

This was all very unsettling, but I still could not believe that it was for real. I was soon convinced otherwise. I clicked the mouse on the mitzvos and aveiros hypertext links and there appeared endless entries documenting every second of my life. In a state of shock, I slowly scrolled down and saw tables that documented everything I had done:

November 2, 1984 – 10:22 AM – 10:26 AM – 224 words of lashon hara
August 5, 1986 – 9:30 PM – 9:42 PM – 584 seconds of Torah Study
September 5, 1997 – 5:30 PM – 5:32 PM – 120 seconds of anger
March 16, 1999 – 9:15 PM – $150 given to tzedakah

I randomly highlighted an entry that read January 12, 1970 – 7:30 AM – Mitzvos and Aveiros intertwined.

What I saw blew me away. On my Windows Media Player, I saw a playback of the entire incident. I was thirty years younger and praying in my yeshiva. I appeared to have intense concentration as I swayed back and forth reciting the Shema, but then I suddenly heard a playback to the voice inside my head. “Shema Yisrael,” if I win the lottery what should I buy first? “Hashem Elokeinu” a Jaguar or Rolls-Royce? “Hashem Echad.”

In a frenzy, I highlighted the other entries. Some of the mitzvos were very impressive, but the aveiros were quite egregious and embarrassing. My whole life was recorded in precise detail. I had forgotten most of these events, but they were all here in their appropriate hypertext links. As I responded to my very own thoughts, a message flickered across the screen:

An eye sees, an ear hears and all your actions are written in a book (Pirkei Avos 2:1)

I had never realized that the Book of my life in heaven was written in HTML format.

More unnerving thoughts raced through my mind. Was this a protected site? King Solomon’s concluding statement at the end of Koheles took on new meaning: “The final thing: everything is heard.” As the Targum (Aramaic translation) renders it, this means that all acts performed in private will become public knowledge in the World to Come. I shivered at the thoughts of my friends logging on to my life file and viewing my entire life history.

A cloud now hung over my head. I always assumed that G-d automatically inscribed me in the Book of Life each year, but now I saw that I was in the Undecided column, and for good reason. I thought of my family who needed me and of my unfulfilled plans for the future. I was too young to leave this world and was scared.

But then I realized something. If my life was recorded on a computer, I could use the delete key to wipe away my entire sordid past. My slate would be clean and G-d would move my name to the Book of Life column. Quickly, with a trembling hand, I took my mouse, highlighted a long list of sins and pressed the delete key on my keyboard.

What a disappointment. A new message popped up:

Illegal function. Improper use of the delete key.

In desperation, I hit the help button. Maybe an angel would come to my side and help me out of my terrible mess. But although no angel appeared, a succinct message showed up on the screen: To delete sins, you must first execute the teshuva subroutine.

“Well, of course, how simple!” I thought to myself. “Why hadn’t I realized that on my own?” I quickly made a fist, tapped my chest a few times and confessed my sins. I thought I was doing okay until another message popped up: Insincere teshuva detected. Delete function aborted. I was stunned, but I knew it was true. There was no use pretending in the Divine Court.

I began to think of the millions of aveiros I had committed. I knew that I wasn’t the leader of the generation, but I also imagined myself to be a fairly decent person. I never realized how the moments of sin added up so quickly, nor did I realize just exactly what I did in the course of each day. Slowly, the realize sunk in. I was classified in the Book of Undecided because of my inadequacies and indiscretions, and there was no point denying the facts. I was devastated.

I was overcome with a sense of remorse as I thought about my life. I wished I had not wasted my years and compromised my values. I promised myself that if I would survive this mess, the future would be different.

Suddenly, my computer screen started flashing and my media player was automatically enabled, playing joyous music. A new message appeared on the screen.

Teshuva process executed successfully. Delete function operational.

I couldn’t believe it. It was really so easy to erase the past? I grabbed the mouse and highlighted all the sins I had ever committed. There were millions of entries, and I scrolled through them with lightning speed. With unease, I pressed the delete key once again, and miraculously, all sins between man and G-d disappeared in a flash.

I was a new man with a clean slate. I checked my status on my initial screen and saw that I was now a tzaddik, inscribed in the Book of Life. Although I should have been ecstatic, something gnawed at me. True I had eradicated millions of millions of crimes, but now I felt like a person with no past. All those seconds wasted and gone forever. Millions of seconds lost in oblivion. Hashem had been so kind to me, even with all my indiscretions. He provided me every need and I reciprocated with ingratitude and damaging behavior. I knew that my sins had distanced me from G-d and now I felt a longing to come closer to Him like a lost child running into his parents’ outstretched arms.

My thoughts were interrupted by more music and another flashing message on my monitor:

‘Teshuva from Love’ process executed. Sins to mitzvah conversion initiated.

I then remembered the Talmudic statement (Yoma 86b) that if repentance is motivated by love, all of one’s sins are transformed into mitzvos. Past sins actually become a positive force in a person’s life. Was it indeed possible that my sorry life was now redeemed? I checked my mitzvah column and now found that I had 89,364,252 mitzvos to my credit. What an amazing windfall. All my aveiros were now converted into mitzvos.

I was dumfounded. Every year in the past, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur flew by, each offering a golden opportunity that I had missed. It was true that while sitting in shul I had tried to do teshuva, but it was never really sincere and genuine. But now, I was so fortunate to have seen the light and realized what I could really accomplish.

What I have realized from this experience is one, very true reality of life. We hit the delete keys on our computers, but don’t realize that we can actually do the same in real life. And to be sure, it really works.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
Building Walls, Building Bridges

For two brothers who were known to be best friends, life on their familial farmland was pleasant. They got along very well and shared much in common. Yet, one day, the unfortunate news was broken to them. Their beloved father had passed away. While saddened by his untimely passing, they were now left with acres and acres of land. After talking it over between themselves, each brother decided to build houses for their families on opposite sides of the field.

As for the remaining land between them, that is where the problems began. One brother wanted to plant corn, arguing that it would bring in much profit. The other brother, however, begged to differ. “I think we should plant cucumbers,” he suggested. As it happened, this small quarrel developed into a heated debate and drove a rift between them. The fighting, in fact, became so hostile and intense that they could barely speak to one another.

Taking their argument to the local rabbi, it was suggested that they plant half the property with corn and half the property with cucumbers. But the brother who wished to plant cucumbers was less than compliant. “If that’s what we have to do,” the brother thought to himself, “I will build a wall between us!” Not telling his brother of his plans, they both returned home intent on planting their respective vegetables.

The following morning, the brother who intended on planting the cucumbers called a carpenter. “Can you build me a wall?” the brother asked. “My brother and I have been arguing as what to plant on our field, and I can no longer stand to look at him. Build me a wall so high that nowhere along my field will I see him and will he see me.”

Without further delay, the carpenter got to work, measuring the field and determining how much wood would be needed to build a tall and lengthy wall. Within a few hours, the carpenter returned with the price estimate. “To build a wall along your entire property as high as you want will cost you $50,000 worth of wood.” “How long will it take you to build?” asked the brother. “I cannot stand to look at my brother’s corn!” “I can do it in a month,” replied the carpenter. “Great,” the brother confirmed.

“While you build the wall, I will go away with my family elsewhere. By the time I return in a month, you’ll be done.”
A month later, there was the brother and his family walking back into their home. The brother put down his bags and headed outside. And then he saw. A bridge was nicely built extending from his property to his brother’s property.

Shocked, he immediately called over the carpenter. “What happened! I told you to build a wall! I gave you $50,000 worth of wood to build a wall, and you built a bridge!” The carpenter stood there calmly, taking in a deep breath. “I thought about it, and I’ve known the two of you since you were little kids. What I did is take the same wood you provided to build a wall and built a bridge instead.”

Meanwhile, the brother on the other side of the field who had planted corn, took a look outside. He hadn’t done so in a while. And lo and behold, what did he see? A beautiful bridge extending from his property to his brother’s property. He was taken aback. He was sure that his brother hated him and wanted nothing to do with him. But apparently, that wasn’t the case.

As he ran across the bridge as quickly as he could, all he could think about was how much his brother loved him. Eventually, he met his brother standing next to the carpenter. Rushing over, he gave his brother a big hug. “I can’t believe it! Even though you seemed so angry at me, you actually loved me and even built a bridge to bring us closer together!”

As the other brother stood there next to the carpenter, he was even more surprised. He had no intention of building a bridge and no intention of making amends with his brother. Quite to the contrary, he wanted to build a wall and separate even further from him. But what could he say now? His brother had forgotten and forgiven whatever had happened in the past; couldn’t he do the same?

And so, in a moment of love and compassion, the brother continued embracing his brother. “I love you too,” he whispered. All that emotion and energy which had gone into building a wall of hatred and hostility had now turned into building a bridge of friendship and forgiveness.

Throughout life, we may find ourselves enmeshed in a situation where we are at odds with someone. Feelings of hurt and resentment swell up and we can almost guarantee that we will never make up with them. But then remember, with that same passion and effort used to build walls and create distance, you can build bridges and create closeness. There is nothing more precious and beautiful than that.

A Short Message From
Rabbi Asher Sinclair

A car wash is a great business. Within a short while of driving out of the wash, you need another cleaning. Your car has already lost much of its gleam and within a week or two it starts looking like any other car. That being so, why would anyone ever bother spending the time and money to clean it in the first place?

Sometimes, Yom Kippur feels a lot like a car wash. Is there a person in the world who repented for their sins last Yom Kippur and hasn’t sinned again? Isn’t it then all a waste of time? Who are we fooling? Certainly not G-d, and if we are honest, not even ourselves.

But think again. Have you ever tried cleaning a car that has not seen water in two years? It is not easy, to say the least. Dirt and grime have eaten into the paint and it is very difficult to make the car shine again. That is the importance of a frequent car wash. It is true that the gleam of our car when we leave the wash may be short-lived, but there is a more important reason that we make our regular pilgrimage to the car wash. It gives us the possibility of returning to the shine of the original paintwork.

Yom Kippur is the same. The shine with which we leave shul after Yom Kippur may wear off pretty quickly. Yet, were we never to experience a Yom Kippur, we would soon become so spiritually dull that we would never be able to get back the luster of our original spiritual paintwork. Yom Kippur provides that ever-important opportunity when we can clean and reclaim our inner and pristine spiritual luster. That indeed is the role of Yom Kippur and its true beauty.

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