banner2.gif
  Torah from Dixe leftbar.gif [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []    [top_xxx.jpg]

MAGNETS OF INSPIRATION

by Mendel Starkman    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

It is Yom Kippur day during the Mussaf prayers. As the chazzan (leader of prayer service) continues chanting his seemingly endless repetition, you look around, at the clock, at the page number, at how many pages are left in Mussaf, and then back at the clock again.

complete_story.gif    

[]

It is Yom Kippur day during the Mussaf prayers. As the chazzan (leader of prayer service) continues chanting his seemingly endless repetition, you look around, at the clock, at the page number, at how many pages are left in Mussaf, and then back at the clock again.

Instead of allowing ourselves to become caught up in the apparent drudgery of the long service, we should stop and think about the purpose of the day - teshuvah. Teshuvah is a process through which we can repent for our sins and thus gain atonement for them. The rabbis declare that the process of teshuvah helps keep the world standing. Were it not for this wonderful gift from Hashem, all of our sins would accumulate, and after a few years, the world would be so full of accumulated sin that it would be worthy of destruction. It is only through the gift of teshuvah that this does not happen. We can now begin to see how important this repenting process really is.

The rabbis further explain that a mixture of sincere teshuvah, along with Yom Kippur and possibly a few physical hardships, can atone for any sin between man and Hashem with one exception. Teshuvah cannot fully atone for sins which caused what is known as a chillul Hashem.

Chillul Hashem is loosely translated as a desecration of G-d's name. However, the Orchos Tzaddikim, an anonymous classic work on Jewish ethics, gives us an insight that means so much more. He explains that a chillul Hashem is when someone does something wrong, and other people take example from him and also do wrong. This teaches us a powerful life lesson: The more a person is looked up to, be it in spiritual, business, or social circles, the more careful he must be not to set the wrong example.

Now we see what a chillul Hashem is and how important it is to avoid causing one. But what if someone already caused a chillul Hashem? If teshuvah cannot atone for it, what can one do?

Rabbeinu Bachya, a 14th century Torah commentary, explains (Leviticus 22:32) that one can get partial atonement for a chillul Hashem by performing a kiddush Hashem - by making a public sanctification of G-d's name. A kiddush Hashem is the opposite of a chillul Hashem. So if a chillul Hashem is doing a wrong action which others will take example from and follow, a kiddush Hashem would be doing a correct action which others see and are inspired by to do likewise.

There are two aspects of this inspiration, as explained by Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, a leading Jewish thinker in post-World War II England and Israel. One is that people are inspired by what they see. If someone sees another person involved in an activity which is wrong, the natural tendency of a human being is to be inspired to some degree to follow the example. And the same is true for positive activities as well. The other aspect, Rabbi Dessler points out, is that if a person does something bad, it brings impurity to the world on some mystical level, thus making it easier for others to do bad. Likewise, if someone does something good, especially a public act of good, it will not only inspire others to follow, but will even make it easier for them to do good, since there is a higher level of purity in the world.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, a great Torah scholar and leader of the past generation, points out that every morning in our prayer service in the blessing immediately preceding the Shema prayer, we ask Hashem to "put in our hearts to understand, to listen, to learn, and to teach, to observe, to do, and to fulfill all the words of the Torah with love." Each of us has the ability every day to study and fulfill Hashem's Torah and mitzvot. But how does everyone have the opportunity to teach? Not everyone is a teacher! Rabbi Feinstein answers that in reality, we are all teachers, because we are all constantly acting as role models for one another and inspiring others to do like us, whether we know it or not. Many of the actions that we do, even if they are just simple and mundane, ripple out and have an effect on other people.

If we keep this in mind, continue acting appropriately in the way that we should, and inspire others to do so as well, perhaps we will merit that next year, instead of listening to the chazzan chant the Mussaf prayers about the service that the Kohanim (priests) used to do in the Temple, we will be able to personally witness that service being done right before our very eyes, in the newly rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem in the days of the Mashiach (Messiah).

[]

Mendel Starkman, a native Atlantan, is attending the Yeshiva Chafetz Chaim in Jerusalem.

You are invited to read more Yom Kippur articles.

Would you recommend this article to a friend? Let us know by sending an e-mail to editor@tfdixie.com

butombar.gif [] [] [] []