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September 26, 1998 6 Tishrei 5758

Pop Quiz: How often was the king of Israel required to read the Torah publicly?


When we think of teshubah, repentance, we usually think of sins that we did or misvot that we neglected. Indeed that is the basic level of repentance, to wipe out all sins from our records. However, there is another concept that we should focus on, especially during these days.

There was a great Rabbi, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Berlin, known as the Netziv, who once invited his family and friends to a festive meal. He explained that he had just finished composing a very complex book, and that called for a celebration. He then told his family that when he was a young boy he was a playful child, not interested in studying. One day, he heard his father tell his mother , "Maybe our little son would be more successful as a tradesman rather than a scholar." The young boy burst into his parents' room and cried out, "Give me one more chance and I'll apply myself to my studies," and the rest was history. The Rabbi then concluded by saying, "Imagine if I had become a tailor, a pious Jew who learns every day for a while, and after 120 years went to the Heavenly court. I would think that my judgment would be based on what I did as a tailor, but the Heavenly court would show me this book that I have just finished, and would ask me, 'Where is this work that you could have done?' That is why I am celebrating today - because I will be able to say that I did what was my potential."

We see from here that it's not enough to just consider what we do or don't do. We should ask ourselves, "Are we living up to our potential?" We have so much talent and capabilities. We have to exert ourselves a little more in the service of Hashem. In these days of teshubah let us re-examine our lives, our accomplishments and our goals, and let us see where we can make a difference. Tizku Leshanim Rabot.

FORGIVENESS by Rabbi Reuven Semah

We are all aware of the necessity to seek the forgiveness of our fellow man before Yom Kippur. G-d will forgive us for our sins that we committed against our friends only after we have made up and were forgiven by the hurt party. The following true story brings the point home.

One Yom Kippur eve, a man came to his friend to beg forgiveness. The friend refused to forgive. "After all," he said, "you ruined my name, which is mosee shem ra, and the halachah is that I'm not required to forgive you!" It just happened that a young boy named Shlomo Zalman, later to become the great Rabbi from Vilna, was close by, hearing all that was going on. He turned to the stubborn man and said, "I'm sure you are aware of the saying of our sages, that Jerusalem was destroyed because the people followed the halachah to the letter of the law! This statement is puzzling to us because it is written in the book of Yehezkel that the Jews of that time committed great sins. So what do our sages mean? The explanation is that as long as the people were not exacting with their friends and were willing to forget, Hashem acted with them the same way. He didn't reprimand them because of their sins. But, when they refused to go beyond the letter of the law, when they wouldn't go the extra mile for their friend, that caused Hashem to bring them to task on their great sins."

As soon as these words left the mouth of young Reb Shlomo Zalman, the man immediately turned to his friend and forgave him with a full heart. They then thanked the young boy for his great insight.

We have the custom on Yom Kippur night to forgive all of the people who have hurt us. This year, let us forgive one person that we said we would never forgive. This will go a long way toward Hashem forgiving us. May we all be sealed in the Book of Life this Yom Kippur, Amen. Shabbat Shalom.

Answer to pop quiz: Every seven years on Hol HaMoed Succot.

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