Parshas Haazinu (5773)
Okay, so over the Ten Days of Repentance starting from Rosh Hashanah and ending on Yom Kippur, we shed all that excess cheit. [Cheit, the Hebrew word for “sin”, is pronounced ‘kh-ate’, and rhymes with “weight”].
But how are we going to keep it off? What’s going to stop us from sliding back into all those negative behavior patterns, bad character traits and ‘sinful’ actions that we promised G-d we would never go back to again?
If we can stand in front of G-d on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, and honestly say to him (as Maimonides says we should in his Laws of Teshuvah 2:4): “I am a changed man, and am not the same person who did all those sins last year”, then we need to develop an approach – a kind of “cheit-watchers” program - that will help to ensure that we don’t fall back to our old ways now that the Ten Days of Repentance are over.
Maybe the following story and parable will provide us with a strategy that will help us stay on course and keep all that cheit off:
In the mid-18th century there lived an assimilated German Jew named Dr. Aharon Gordia. He had abandoned Judaism to become the personal physician to the King of Prussia and his ministers. After a chance meeting with Rabbi Dov Ber, the famed Maggid (itinerant preacher) of Mezritch and the successor to Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chasidic movement, Dr. Gordia decided to leave his old ways and to start observing the Torah and the Mitzvos, and he became a complete Baal Teshuvah (returnee to observant Judaism) as well as a close disciple of the Maggid and a member of his inner circle.
Yet in those early stages of the doctor’s spiritual transformation, he was constantly haunted by the demons and temptations of his ignoble past, and worried that he might be enticed to return at any time to his former ways.
Dr. Gordia bared his soul and all his fears to his rebbe, the Maggid of Mezritch, who then told him the following parable:
Once upon a time there was a Jew who lived in a small village where he owned and operated a tavern. The gentile famers would gather there nightly to drink. Once they became totally inebriated, they would scream at each other using foul language, and they would say all kinds of vile and disgusting things. They would often get into fistfights and throw things at each other in their drunken stupors, and quite a few of them found themselves lying in a pool of their own vomit when morning came. This repugnant scene repeated itself at the tavern night after night until the Jewish owner’s neshamah (spirit) couldn’t take it anymore. So he decided to close down the tavern and to turn it into a supermarket selling fruits, vegetables, raw goods and bread The problem was that the local drunks would forget that the tavern had been closed, and they would often come banging on the doors and windows of the supermarket in the middle of the night, shouting at the top of their lungs, “Open up, Moshke! We need some vodka now!!” The Jewish owner would then call out to them, “You’ve got the wrong address! I am no longer in the tavern business – I now run a fresh goods supermarket!”
Said Rabbi Dov Ber to his faithful disciple Dr. Gordia, “Do you understand what I am saying to you? Whenever those temptations and negative thoughts come knocking at your day, trying to get in and destroy you, say to them: “Get away from me! I am no longer the man I used to be! I repented and changed my ways, and my Teshuvah was accepted! I have turned a new page in my life, I am treading on a new path! Leave me be! You’ve got the wrong address!”
If we are to succeed with our cheit loss now that Yom Kippur is over – making sure that we keep all that cheit off for good - we would do well to heed the Maggid’s advice to Dr. Gordia, and the next time any of those negative thoughts and character traits come knocking on our door, we need to be strong and to say to them: “You’ve got the wrong address! I don’t act like that anymore!”
May we all merit to be successful in our post-Yom Kippur cheit loss program – and may we all be sealed in the Book of Life!