THE POWER TO REPENT
This is the time for repentance. It is time for us to look at our character, do much soul searching, and fix all of those blemishes that we find.
This is the time for repentance. It is time for us to look at our character, do much soul searching, and fix all of those blemishes that we find. No matter where we stand in our service of Hashem, there is always plenty of room for us to improve. When we find an area in our character that needs correcting, what is the best way to correct it?
The Rambam (Maimonides) teaches us that the way one corrects his character traits is to over-exaggerate the trait in the opposite direction for a period of time until one reaches a middle ground. This is akin to a spiritual diet. For example, if a person is greedy, he should give more charity than he would usually give, and eventually he will come to reach a level where he should be. By bending oneself past the preferred middle ground, teaches the Rambam, a person will come to stand in the proper place before Hashem.
The Chazon Ish, a foremost leader of Torah Jewry during the first half of this century, teaches us a different way to perfect our character. If a person focuses on observance of mitzvot, he will come to improve his character. For example, if he performs the mitzvah of bringing in guests he will come to love all Jews; if he becomes stringent in his kashruth observance, he will come to curb his gluttonous appetite. Whatever method we choose, we must act now. Rabbi Sholom Schwadron, the famous Maggid of Jerusalem, told a great parable for this time of year. A wealthy man in Russia was planning to illegally smuggle some of his merchandise into Poland. He hired a carriage driver, and made the plans. About a month before the plan was set to be executed, the wealthy man became very worried. "Maybe the plan won't work, and I will lose a great amount of money." He decided to make even more preparations to ensure that the operation would be successful. Then, a few days before the big day, the driver began to become worried. "Maybe I will get caught, and they will throw me in jail," so he took even more precautions. However, the horses that were pulling the cart just walked right on through, not worrying about a thing.
Rabbi Schwadron concludes that the wealthy man is like the righteous individuals. They start "worrying" about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with the sounds of the shofar that began a month earlier with the advent of the Hebrew month of Elul. From that point on, they begin their intense teshuvah (repentance). The drivers are like the beinonim, the intermediate people. They wake up to the fact that the High Holidays are coming a few days before they arrive, and only then start their process of teshuvah. But the resha'im, the evil people, are just like the horses; they will just walk right through these awesome days, without a care in the world.
It is never to late to do teshuvah and correct ourselves. Let us not be like the horses that walk right through. Let us seize this amazing opportunity to grow closer to Hashem.
Pinchas Landis, a native Atlantan, is studying at Yeshivat Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem.
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