Thursday, September 13, 2018

Parshas Vayelech – Shabbas Shuva 5779

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayelech – Shabbas Shuva
5 Tishrei 5779/September 14, 2018

With tremendous gratitude to Hashem, we just celebrated the second birthday of our twin sons, Gavriel and Michael. They started the ‘wonderful twos’ early and definitely have been keeping us on our toes, to say the least.
One morning in camp a few weeks ago, the dynamic duo decided to attack the Keurig coffee K-Cups. After moving over the kitchen chairs to the counters, they climbed up and proceeded to empty all the K-Cups from their container. They felt the toaster oven was a far better place for them to be kept.
When Chani went to put her breakfast in the toaster, she had to empty out all the K-Cups. But one of the K-Cups was tucked away and lodged into the bottom of the toaster, so she didn’t see it. When she turned on the toaster the bungalow was instantly filled with a misty smell of burnt coffee and plastic. She quickly shut the toaster and, when it cooled, removed the melted, burnt K-Cup. But the odious smell lingered for a couple of days, a reminder that we are outnumbered by double trouble.
Whenever we commit a sin, the problem is not merely the negative action that we have committed. There is also a spirit of impurity that envelops us and causes a spiritual barrier between us and Hashem.
In the physical world, we are often warned that smoke kills before fire. In the spiritual world too, the spiritual smoke generated by our sins is more noxious and damaging than even the sins themselves. Therefore, when we seek to do teshuva, it is not enough for us to merely purge the action of sin from our account. We also must seek to reverse the incorrect mindsets and attitudes which we have developed before and after we sinned. Inevitably, when one commits a sin he becomes more cavalier to the severity of his actions and less sensitive to the spiritual damage he has caused.
When the prophets speak about teshuva, and when the Rambam codifies the laws of teshuva, they speak about the sinner returning from his errant ways. It is not enough to cease the negative actions he has done. He must also reverse course and ensure that he realigns himself with his true aspirations and goals.
When a couple is struggling in their marriage, it’s rarely one point or disagreement that is the overriding issue. Invariably, the problem is the general lack of communication, or a feeling in the air of rancor and resentment. It’s not enough to deal with the petty issues they are presenting. The real issue is the lack of relationship and the negativity that hangs in the very air between them.
Numerous times during the Yom Kippur prayers we state the verse: “For on this day He will atone for you, to purify you. From all of your sins, before Hashem you will be purified.” The pasuk clearly alludes to two components of teshuva - atonement - the actual purging of the sin, and purification, wherein one is purified from the spiritually deleterious effect of his sins. Meriting divine purification is far more challenging than achieving atonement. After all, it is far easier to dispose of the burnt and melted K-Cup, than it is to get rid of the smoke that it generated.
We spend a great deal of time during Yom Kippur confessing specific iniquities. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Yom Kippur is not just about specific sins. It is also an opportunity to refocus ourselves, and to clear the (spiritual) air.
May we all have the wisdom to take full advantage of this arduous yet majestic day.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos
G’mar Chasima Tova,
            R’ Dani and Chani Staum