Thursday, September 15, 2011

KI SAVO 5771

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Ki Savo

17 Elul 5771/September 16, 2011 -- Pirkei Avos – Chapter 3 & 4

What a tzaddik I am! Or at least that’s the way it must have appeared.

I walked out of my house one crisp Sunday morning in late October last year, heading towards my Hyundai Sonata 2000 which I had left on the side of the road in front of our home the night before. But when I reached for the handle I noticed a sizeable dent in the side of the car. I had absolutely no idea who whacked into the side of my car at some unearthly hour the night before, but dent was so big that I could barely open the door wide enough to squeeze in. I drove to the garage where my mechanic told me it was simply not worth fixing the dent. When I mentioned that I could hardly get in, he pulled out a crow bar and pushed the door back out.

But here’s where my righteousness comes into the picture: At no point did I get angry. In fact I think I even exclaimed, ‘gam zu l’tovah (this too is for the best)’. What utter control I must have over my emotions! What spiritual greatness I must have attained! Kudos for me! Or maybe not…

I have been driving our Sonata since I married my wife, and she was driving it for a couple of year before that. The car has been (and is b’li ayin hara) great. But with time it has begun showing its age. These days, when I drive it on the highway and accelerate past 60 mph it feels a little bit like I’m getting ready for takeoff (I always wanted to be a pilot). The ‘Check Engine’ light is a bit volatile, popping on at will (though my mechanic told me it’s fine). [One of my friends dubbed the Check Engine light as his car’s ‘ner tamid’.] But even more importantly, a number of years ago someone jumped a stop sign and rammed into the passenger side of my car creating a sizeable dent, which for various reasons I never fixed.

So when I noticed the new dent on my car that Sunday morning it wasn’t as aggravating and upsetting as it would have otherwise been, because the car was already dented. If anything the new dent made the car look more balanced. Had the car been brand new or in top notch condition when it was dented I can only hope that I would have had such equanimity and self-control.

The problem is that when the Days of Awe approach many people feel like my car. “What’s the use of even making New Year’s resolutions? What’s the point of even trying to rectify my sins and negative habits? I’m so lost anyway. My soul is so dented and damaged that who cares already?”

But that is an egregious error. King David stated (Tehillim 130:4), “For with you is forgiveness in order that we should fear.” If G-d is full of forgiveness is that not cause to feel more secure and less fearful? What does King David mean that because G-d forgives we should fear?

If I knew that my car could be repaired to look brand new, and even upgraded to have the appearance and amenities of a 2011 luxury car, I would have been much more annoyed when I saw that dent. It is only because I feel like the car is anyway dented that the added dent isn’t worth becoming angry about.

Since G-d created repentance a person can never resort to giving up, because he always has the ability to rectify his wrongdoings and reach a state of pristine purity.

Our souls may indeed be tarnished and blemished. But with proper teshuvah our souls can again sparkle and shine. Therefore, we must fear that perhaps we have not yet done enough in our efforts towards repentance.

“The all-new ‘Soul-5771’ – so pure and holy. Get yours today!”

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum