COURT IS NOW IN SESSION
This was all that Sam was able to respond whenever one of the collectors came to his house.
"I'd really love to, but I don't have any money."
This was all that Sam was able to respond whenever one of the collectors came to his house. It had been going on already for the past six months. Almost every day the same situation - the knocking on the door, the "you owe us xxx dollars", and then the inevitable response, "I'd really love to pay, but I simply don't have any money." Sam had never had this problem until his business collapsed almost a year ago. What was he supposed to do now? He really wanted to be able to pay off his debts, but he just had no money left at all. He could barely afford to put food on the table for his family.
Then came the day he had feared for the past half a year. He opened up his mail on a Friday to find a court summons. Many of his debtors had filed suit against him, and he was expected to be in court on Monday morning to face them. He could see it already, the humiliation that he would face as, one by one, they would call out how much he owed them. He wished there was some way to escape this dreaded day, but he saw no other choice but to show up.
That Monday, the case proceeded just as he had imagined. One by one, each of his creditors got up and announced exactly how much Sam owed them. As the day went on, Sam kept trying to sink lower and lower into his chair. As if the embarrassment and humiliation wasn't bad enough, the judge asked him to get up and respond to all of these charges.
"Your Honor, I worked as a businessman for many years and always paid my debts on time," Sam declared as the tears began to form on the corners of his eyes. "This year was simply a horrible year and I cannot afford to pay. What am I supposed to do?" The judge responded harshly, "You have brought all of these debts upon yourself, now you must take the responsibility of paying them back or face the consequences of being thrown in jail."
Hearing these words was too much for Sam to handle, and he broke down crying. "I try to make money so that I'll be able to pay it, but I just can't seem to make ends meet." The judge looked down at the broken man and was unable to hold back his compassion. "Seeing you here crying before me, I know that you have tried your hardest to be able to pay back what you owe. I will allow you a one year extension on all of your debts, and I personally will give you some business opportunities to earn some money."
Just like Sam in this story, we too have managed to have our debts - our sins - pile up against us to a point that we cannot possibly repay them. We may be good people who try very hard, but it just isn't possible for us to "pay back" all that we owe.
In our Rosh Hashanah prayers we say that Hashem is a "Melech rachum v'chanun - our King who is merciful and full of compassion." As our Melech, our King, He sits in judgment, listening to all of our debts being called out against us and seeing how we must pay them back. It is only through the fact that Hashem is "rachum v'chanun - merciful and full of compassion" that we are able to come out of Rosh Hashanah with a "year extension" to try and rebuild ourselves and improve from the previous year. Hashem gives us the opportunities to do so, and we must take advantage of these opportunities and not push them off. Our sincere teshuvah (repentance) on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the force that allows Hashem to give us these chances. We should all try to use these openings that Hashem allows us, to see to it that next year our debt will be a little less then it was the year before.
Rachi Messing, who is married to Devorah Estreicher of Atlanta, is an educator at Beth Tefilah in Baltimore.
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