Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Yom Kippur 5782



Erev Yom Kippur

9 Tishrei 5781/September 15, 2021


To be added to my “Striving Higher” WhatsApp chat with periodic chizuk clips, or my “Power Parenting” WhatsApp chat with weekly ideas about parenting, text me at 845-641-5094.


לרפואה שלימה נטע יצחק בן רחל


            The other night I was driving with our eleven-year-old daughter Chayala, and she began asking me questions about how different parts of the car works. I happen to know a lot about cars from my years of driving them. I know that they have four tires, an engine, a steering wheel, a battery that you can’t buy at the checkout line at Shoprite, seats, and windshield wipers. But that’s about the extent of my expertise with cars. Still, I explained to her that inside the system of the car there is a built-in computer that regulates the technical parts of the car. I added that when I had gotten into an accident a couple of years ago, when a car rammed into the side of my car, aside from the structural body damage that my car sustained, the mechanic also had to reset the computer inside the car, which had malfunctioned as a result of the impact.

            Being that this conversation took place during the Aseres Yimei Teshuva, I thought about the connection between my car analogy and the process of teshuva. Every time we commit a sin, there are two mishaps that occur. There is the actual sin which becomes embedded on our conscience. In addition, there is a negative spiritual residue which blemishes our soul. In another sense, there is the sin itself and then there is the fact that we committed an act in defiance of G-d’s Will, which automatically makes the sin an act of unwitting rebellion.

            Repentance for the actual sin is like the body work to fix the car. That damage is most easily recognizable because it immediately impedes the functioning of the car. But there is also the not as noticeable problem which may not be immediately apparent but will become clear after the driver turns on the motor. The inner computer, the brain of the car, is also damaged which causes the car to not function optimally. Even if the car is able to drive, it will be a frustrating experience and potentially even dangerous.

            Rabbi Paysach Krohn relates a similar analogy about a young ba’al teshuva who bought a new set of pots and pans and went to immerse them in a mikvah. Afterwards, he was informed that the immersion could not be done until all stickers were removed from the vessels. He removed all the stickers and went to immerse them again.

            Afterwards, he noted that removing the stickers themselves was the easy part. The hard part was scratching off the glue underneath the labels.

            I can well relate to this. Anytime my wife asks me to tovel something I ask her to please take off the stickers and glue beforehand. I have spent much time trying to scratch off the stubborn glue in the small mikvah area….

            The ba’al teshuva noted that he realized that every sin has an outer component and an inner component - the label and the glue. The actual sin itself is the label, the outer component. But beyond that is the glue, the inner component of the sin, the impurity caused by the act which adheres to his soul and makes him more prone to sin again.

            The Torah writes about Yom Kippur, (Vayikra 16:30) “Because on this day, you will be forgiven so that you will be purified.” Yom Kippur is not only a day of repentance, but also a day of reconnection. Through the arduous service of the day, we not only rectify the body work and remove the negative labels from our souls, but we also rectify our inner computers, by scratching away the sticky residue of the sin. Forgiveness is for the actual sin itself, while purification is from the negative spiritual effect the sin caused.

            A chassidishe friend once quipped that a computer can become infected with a virus, just as we become infected by aveiros (it works better with a chassidishe pronunciation, when it’s pronounced the same way - “a-virus”).

            Last year, I had the unenviable experience of my computer shutting down. Suddenly, all I saw was a blank blue screen. No matter what I pushed, or how many times I shut my computer, that awful blank blue screen persisted.

            In a panic, I went to an expert who was able to go into the bowels of the computer and rectify the issue. When I came to pick it up, he showed me that the screen with the familiar background picture of my family was back, as were all my files and documents. Thankfully, my infected computer was able to have a refuah sheleimah.

            On Yom Kippur, if we seek to purify ourselves, Hashem helps us get there. It’s not only a day of forgiveness from past iniquities, but also a day of purification and rectification, when we are afforded the opportunity to begin anew.


            G’mar Chasima Tova and Good Yom Tov,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum