Yom Kippur 5783 – A Unique Opportunity to Pay Up Our “Debt”

May We Be Zoche To See Moshiach B’Karov – The Rechanik Family

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Shiur presented in 5779

Credit Card Forgiveness Program

Last time, we spoke about how easy it is to do teshuva. We explained that all you have to do is say, “Hashem, I became distanced from You, and now I want to become close to you.” That’s  quite easy, and by doing that, you can go from being a rasha gammur to a tzaddik gamur. Now, when it comes to Rosh Hashanah, you are trying to get into the books of the tzaddikim, so you can do the “easy” teshuva – the כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאד type of teshuva – and then Hashem will look at you as a tzaddik, in spite of all your “baggage.” But you have to know that every single chet (sin)that a person does creates a “charge” on his credit card, and there are no free miles on this credit card. If anything there are negative miles. Not one charge is overlooked. They don’t round up numbers. You have to pay for every single thing you’ve done. You can’t simply call up the “Angels of Debt” and hope that they will get you out of debt. They won’t be able to call the Ribono Shel Olam and say, “Hashem, this guy owes you big time. He’s got a card that has hundreds of thousands of dollars of his chet charges on it. Can we cut him a deal? 20%, 30%, 50%?” That’s what the credit card companies do when they see the guy is not paying, but Hashem has not yet instituted such a program. You did the crime, you will have to pay. Now, you have to think about this, because if you connect to this idea, it is a most overwhelming thought.

Here is a guy who bumped into somebody’s car. It happens. He looks around and doesn’t see anybody and he drives off.  He’s sure that no one saw. But you have to know that Hashem “took” the picture. And you know what happens next? It could be that years later, suddenly, someone bumps into this guy’s car and he gets all tzitumelt and riled up. “What a mechutzef!  How dare he do this to me! What kind of person would do such a thing?!” And Hashem will tell him, “Are you a nut? I just gave you back what you dished out a long time ago!” Well, that was different, that was then, this is now, etc! You may have all kinds of excuses. There is no such thing! You may be a tzaddik, you may be a tzaddik gammur, but you never got kapora for that! Or maybe you were in yeshiva and you were mazik something when you were in yeshiva. It’s very common for people to think that a yeshiva or a shul is a hefker – that’s what people think. People scratch their names into the benches or shtenders. People do all kinds of things. Then somebody is in your house – you don’t know who or what or when – and the guy leaves scratches in your beautiful breakfront.  You wonder why this happened. I tell the person, “Think! Have you ever done similar damage in your life? Is it possible?”

“A Scratch for A Scratch”

Here’s a lady who called me and told me she just hit a frum person’s car at a mall. She put a paper on the car with her number, but she doesn’t think she wrote the right number. I told her, “You know, if you don’t think you wrote the right number, how can I help you?” She called me back later that day and told me, “Rabbi Brog you won’t believe it. I went to shop in a different mall, and when I came out to get into my car, there was a piece of paper on my windshield. I saw that there were a bunch of unintelligible scribbles on the paper, and then I saw that my car was hit.” I told her, “Hashem loves you! It happened that fast! Hashem’s helping you now to get a kapora and get a tikkun.” You have to mesaken your aveiros, Rabbosai.

Teshuva is Easy, Kaporah is Not

Now, a lot of people believe in the following nonsense. They tell themselves, “I’ll deal with it when I get to Olam Haba.” Now, it’s easy to do teshuva before you die. You can be a tzaddik in Hashem’s eyes then, but it’s not going to give you a kaporah and a tikkun for all the bad things you did in this world. The credit card charges are going to have to be paid. But people think, “I am sure that in Gehenom, I can deal with it.” You have to realize that aveiros bein odom l’chaveiro are unique. Just like when you do mitzvos, you don’t get your sechar for them in this world, but only in the next world, as the Gemara (Kiddushin 39b) says, שכר מצוה בהאי עלמא ליכא, there is no reward for performance of a mitzvah in this world. You know when you get paid? In the next world. But when you do chessed with someone, you have a tremendous benefit, as it says, that you “eat dividends in this world,” אלו דברים שאדם אוכל פירותיהם בעולם הזה (Mishna Peah, 1:1). This is called a dividend program, where they pay dividends. It’s a tremendous zach! Every time you invest in doing chessed with somebody, you have dividends in this world! But it also works on the negative side: When you do an aveira, Hashem may pay you in the Next World. However, when you do an aveira bein adom l’chaveiro, not only will you get paid back in the next world, you will pick up “dividends” in this world! Now, even though there’s no bargaining and breaking down your debt with Hashem, still, in His amazing chessed and ratzon, Hashem wants to be meitiv with us. Do you know what He did? He instituted an “amnesty program.” Hashem says, “Once a year, I will give you a chance of a lifetime, where you can get kapora on your aveiros. I will wipe away your aveiros – if you do teshuva.” If you think about that, it’s an absolutely mind-boggling idea. This is what’s called an “alternative payment plan” to settle your credit card debt. You do some teshuva and according to how much teshuva you did, Hashem subtracts from your debt and that’s how much kaporah you get.  You can have a huge bill when you start doing teshuva.

But you have to want to do teshuva. And then, as the gemara says, הבא לטהר מסייעין אותו מן השמים – if one comes to purify himself, they assist him (Yuma 58b, Avodah Zarah 55a). But you have to be honestly בא לטהר. The issue is, that when it comes to our credit card debt, everyone protects and defends themselves with their best koichos. Everyone can say, “I am not really chayiv.” If you really feel that you are not chayiv and you don’t have a credit card bill, you are never going to do teshuva. Many people convince themselves that they are okay. I remember asking a person, “How much is your bill?” He said, “I don’t know. Maybe $20,000 or $30,000. I have to look it up. Come back to me tomorrow.” The next day he said he owed $120,000 of credit card bills, and before long, it became $210,000. That’s when you call the “Angels of Debt.” The guy didn’t know what his bill was! He thought it was only 20-30k. You’re clueless? How can a person live in such a la-la land?

Wishful Thinking

People have debts. And now you have the opportunity to knock them out. You would think that we would all go crazy during these days. Rabbeinu Yonah says that, essentially, any normal person should go crazy these days. He should be trying with all his koichos to knock down his debt. But you see people walking around with their credit card and they keep charging it. They are staying with their debts during Aseres Yemei Teshuva, they don’t care! When a person is in that situation, that’s the biggest klalah a person can have.  He knows that he’s facing a sentence, a punishment, and he has a way out, and he just shuts down his mind (“I don’t want to think about it! There is too much debt!”). That’s the biggest curse! So you know what he does? He ignores the debt. You know how many people did not have cancer or heart disease last year, and this year they do? Many, many! Thousands, tens of thousands! Crazy numbers. You know how many people had healthy hearts last year and this year they don’t have a heart to talk about anymore, because they are six feet under? Lots of people! People got into car accidents, people got damaged this year. Rabbosai, there is no way to beat the system! You must understand that you have to deal with your credit card debt. After Yom Kippur, you cannot deal with that bill as easily as you are able to on Yom Kippur! The repayment program closes on motzei Yom Kippur, and you cannot take care of the bill after that.

Don’t Wait Until Yom Kippur!

So I am assuming you all did teshuva and now you are all tzaddikim gemurim, and Hashem has you written down in the book of tzadikim gemurim. But now with Yom Kippur coming, you must realize, that Hashem will ask you, “What are you doing with your bill?” Hashem is giving us a chance. R’ Yisroel Salanter says that people walk around in a daze and they are in such a la-la land, they don’t even get it! Do they really think that for every loshon hora they spoke, they will get a freebie? What if your loshon hora hurt someone? There are different levels of loshon hora. There’s loshon hora, there’s rechilus, motzei shem ra, etc. What if you hurt someone with the loshon hora and it caused damage to someone?! Do you think it just disappears because it was “just” words?! You are going to have to pay for every single thing. How are you going to call up the guy to ask for mechilla if you didn’t even think about all the loshon hora you spoke?! You can’t get mechilla without asking! You robbed people and stole from people. Now, of course, you all had a cheshbon – you were מורה היתר – but was it a good היתר?

This is your chance, my friends. Don’t wait until Yom Kippur! I love it when people call me up in the last few minutes before Yom Kippur and ask me, “What should I do?” I have no idea. Is that what you are going to do when you are on your way to the courtroom? There are a couple of days left, and a person has to take them seriously. Now, the first step is to daven from the bottom of your heart to Hashem that you should be sober and not “drunk.” We are suffering from timtum ha’lev (dullness of the heart), because when  we do an aveira – besides for the rebellion itself and the punishment, it causes a numbing effect.

A Shot of Novacaine

With every aveirah you do, comes a little bit of “poison,” a shot of anesthetic agent that numbs you. If you don’t learn Torah for the whole day, that’s hours lost of תלמוד תורה כנגד כלם. You also committed a lot of ראיות אסורות – you looked at forbidden things throughout the year. And you didn’t just look at them three or four times, you looked at these forbidden things 1000’s of times per year! And no one ever looks at something for one second either. So you look for two or three seconds, for four seconds, and that bill runs up. Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching. You are getting charged for every second! You’ve got thousands of words of lashon hora a minute – do you know what that means? You’ve got boatloads. You can’t do one blanket thing and wipe it away. But the reason you don’t realize it, is because you become so “numb” by all your aveiros – you’ve been pricked by all of your aveiros, as the gemara (Yoma 39a) says, עבירה מטמטמת לבו של אדם – sin stupefies the heart of a person.[i] Aveiros block a person from being aware. And that’s why there are so many people walking around three days before Yom Kippur and they are not even thinking about Yom Kippur! Many of them are thinking, “I can’t wait until Yom Kippur is over! What do I need this for? It just creates a burden. I live my life to chill, to relax.” No, there is no such thing. You’ve got to understand that it’s all in your hands, and every one of you should be davening and saying Tehillim, and praying to Hashem a 100 times a day, in your own language, “Hashem, please help me out. I know this is serious.” But you become so numb and arrogant that we say to ourselves, “I am not afraid of Hashem! I did good so far, I will continue doing well.” It doesn’t work like that. I can’t tell you how many people called me over the years, and I asked them, “Did you ever do such a thing?” And they said, “Yes, but it was 30-40 years ago.” I tell them, “Well, that’s the price you pay, and that’s why you are going through this now.”

There is No Fire Without Smoke

A lady called me up recently who had multiple electrical fires happen inside her wall, and she got so scared over this, that she had to move out of that house and move into a new house. “Baruch Hashem, in this new house, we don’t have these problems.” Or so she thought. A short while later, the same exact problem started happening in her new house! You know what it means to have multiple electrical fires in your house? That would scare the pants out of me! That is very scary stuff. And you can’t pour water over these things. She called me up. I said to her, “I can tell you what’s going on in your house – it says it “black and white” in the gemara (Shabbos 119b)[ii] – there’s chillul Shabbos going on in your house.” It says that when there is chillul Shabbos, Hashem sends fires that cannot be extinguished. She said, “Really?!” I said, “Yes, that’s what the gemara says.” People have to realize it. “What if it’s my husband?” she asked. “Tell him to wake up then,” I told her.

Now, there’s no such thing as a punishment without a chet;the gemara (Brachos 33a) says that the snakes don’t kill people, but chet does.[iii] You can have a great tzaddik or a great tzaddekes who are great today, but they have a great baggage which they never cleaned up. So you have to do teshuva – you’ve got to pray to Hashem non-stop. Take this more seriously than a heart attack. Ask Hashem to  help you “get sober” so you can face the emes and you could be zoiche to a little teshuva. Hashem doesn’t want to kill anybody, He wants to wake us up and give us the opportunity to wipe away our sins clean! You think that when you throw a tissue at the garbage and it falls out, but since there is no one else around, you can just walk away? No, it’s not okay. It’s not going anywhere – no one is picking up your dirty tissue.

Break the טימטום with a Tiny Commitment

So now the question is – what do you do for teshuva? Remember that for your טימטום הלב (“blocking of the heart”) you’ve got to daven like you’ve never davened before, and you’ve got to try to do some big mitzvos. If you learn Torah seriously for one hour, b’retzifus (uninterrupted) that would help you tremendously to counter that טימטום הלב, because just like an aveira is metamtemes a person’s heart, so too, the mitzvah counters the טימטום! So if you were smart, you would light up your fires and do some serious learning in the next couple of days! You may want to do that and try to save yourself! Now, you may want to do it, but the Yeitzer Hora is not letting you! He is on you! The Yeitzer Hora thinks that you are what the flies are seeking out. You know, whenever you see lots of flies – you know what you are seeing? Garbage. Flies love garbage. And it’s not fresh food that they are after, but usually a dead carcass. The Yeitzer Hora gets all over you and then, as they say, “the rest of history.” You must, at any cost, try to get break through that that wall, that טימטום הלב, and get a stent into your clogged arteries.

You know that a cardiologist often checks how clogged your arteries are, as most people have clogged arteries. The question is how clogged are they, and which arteries are clogged. Is it the main one? Not the main one? When the arteries are clogged over a certain percentage, that’s when they try to put stents in. Hashem is telling you, “You’ve got to unclog those arteries.” But just because you want them to get them unclogged, that doesn’t unclog them. And if you have clogged arteries, it doesn’t make any difference if you do exercise, because if you do, you get a heart attack! So that’s step number one – break through that wall, that טימטום הלב. I am telling you, Rabbosai, do yourself a favor – it’s Sunday afternoon, 4:44pm, and you have two days until Yom Kippur. At 4:44pm two days from now, you will be sitting there on Yom Kippur, and then you are going to start scratching your head and asking yourself, “Where do I start? What should I do?” But you are going to be helpless. So what do you do?

A Partial Yom Kippur?

Rav Yisroel Salanter did such a chessed for us, it’s unbelievable! Before he came along – if you looked in every sefer before Rav Yisroel – all of them told us that, on Yom Kippur, you had to do teshuva on all of your aveiros מכל חטאתיכם לפני ה’ תטהרו – there is not one thing you can miss, Hashem wants you to clean the whole show! No partial shower! No sticking your pinky in a shower. Hashem wants you to put your whole body in there and complete it! So, came along Rav Yisroel and said, “You can have a Yom Kippur b’miktzas (partially).”[iv]

Now, don’t fool yourself – you can change, people can change! But what’s the main reason people cannot change? Because they don’t really want to change! It used to shock me when the people with whom I worked changed and became frum. I was shocked! How did they change?! Do you know why that happened? The first thing they wanted to do was to change! They had a tremendous siyata d’shamaya because they were in the category ofהבא ליטהר מסייעין אותו” – he who makes the effort to purify himself is Divinely assisted in his efforts (Shabbos 104a). But we don’t want to change. We don’t want to talk less loshon hora. We don’t really want to learn more Torah. We don’t want to daven harder. We don’t want to become more committed to Hashem, become closer to Him and have Hashem involved in our lives more. We don’t want to do that. If so, then Yom Kippur is not for you; Rosh Hashanah and Aseres Yomi Teshuva are not for you. You are in the boonies. You are out in the desert. You are not even in the game! That’s hopeless. To be in the game, you’ve got to say, “I really want to change.” But to change totally and say, “I am never going to talk lashon hora,” is impossible. Chofetz Chaim himself writes  that people can’t change this way. You can’t be mekabel not to look at anything wrong, or to make every bracha with kavanah – you can’t do that! Look at the list of aveiros they hand out in shuls on Yom Kippur – you can’t change all of them – there are lots and lots of chatoyim on that paper. In bold size and in little print!

Do You Want to Change?

But assuming you want to change, you’ve got to come forward in a most honest way that’s going to affect change. If you say that you will change on Yom Kippur, that’s an impossibility. That means that you don’t really want to change! For example, could a lady who doesn’t dress in a tzanua way, say to herself that starting from tomorrow she’s going to be tzanua?! That’s not shaich! No one ever became tzanua like that. It has to be done in steps. I remember being in one lady’s house and talking about making those small changes. She asked me, “Do you want me to get rid of all my clothes?!” I said, “Not today, but eventually.” She asked, “Can I keep anything?” I said, “Probably not. But I am not  going to go through your clothing and decide what stays or what goes. I am going to send you to a Rebbetzin who will help you with that.” She told me that she went to that Rebbetzin who tossed a lot of her clothing but helped her to fix a lot of her wardrobe.  

So could you change in a day? No. Could you stop talking loshon hora or looking at forbidden things in one day? No. But I will tell you what you could do – if you want to change at all – and if you have interest in becoming better in your life.  Every one of us has the ability to do teshuva and start teshuva in the easiest possible way. For example, is there any person who cannot say the following: “For the first 5 minutes that I go out on the street, I am going to be careful about what I look at?” Is there anyone who cannot say that?! One time, on Yom Kippur, I told a talmid of mine, who was an intelligent fellow but who was struggling with learning, “I want you to be mekabel that for next 365 days, a year, you are going to learn 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night.” He told me “I’ll get back to you.” It was on Yom Kippur. An hour or two later, I went back to him and asked, “Nu?”

“I can’t do it,” he told me. I said, “You can’t even fake it?!” He replied, “I don’t want to fake it. I want to  tell you honestly – I can’t do it. Most days, I probably can, but not every day.” He wasn’t willing to change at all! That’s heartbreaking. He used to be a yeshiva man. It really shocked me! You go over to people who want to become frum and they say to you: “I am starting to keep Shabbos, kashrus, etc.” They start, they make moves and they build themselves up; they do something.

Stealing Paperclips

So Rav Yisroel Salanter says another chiddush, that when Hashem will hold you responsible for your sins, you will be held much less responsible for not doing the maximum. But you know what Hashem will “toast” you for? Do you know what Hashem’s biggest teviya (grievance)on the person will be? “Why didn’t you do the minimum?!”[v] How come you didn’t commit to the minimum? Everybody’s got a minimum that’s possible!? You couldn’t avoid looking around for the first five minutes you were on the street? Is there anybody who cannot say, “I am going to sit down to learn, and for the first 5 minutes I won’t be mevatel?” It’s not hard. It’s easy. But people cannot do it. That shows that they have absolutely no interest! Sometimes a person sees things that are overpowering. Sometimes a person is exposed to major loshon hora that he cannot think of not saying. 

Rav Yisroel says an amazing thing. It’s really a gemara (see footnote #5). So let’s say, l’mashal, a guy goes into an office and he sees a whole bowl of paper clips. The worker in the office steps out for a moment, and this fellow reaches over, takes a handful of paper clips and puts them in his pocket. In comes another guy, and sees a bank teller step out to get some money for the bank safe and, by mistake she left the door to the safe open. This guy looks around, he sees that the cameras are not around, and he takes a stack of cash and puts it in his pocket. Who do you think is worse?

The person who stole cash is not going to be as responsible as the guy who stole paper clips, because there is not yeitzer hora with paper clips. That was kalus. You have to be aza mechutzaf and aza ganav to want to steal paperclips. Here is another guy who walks around stores and he takes things. Here is a guy who goes to a fruit station and he takes some fruits or someone who steals cookies from a cookie jar. This guy’s a ganvan shein komoso! He’s worse than a guy who holds up other people! A guy who breaks into Borough Park homes for stealing big bucks – that’s a very big yetzer hora to stop, but the guy who stole cookies or a piece of fruit, there’s no yeitzer hora to steal those things [and he still gave in]. Now, some people ask whether it’s permissible or not. (I remember once going into a store in Borough Park, called Breadberry, and when I asked for small samples, the worker said, “Yes. What would you like to taste? Choose and I’ll give it to you.” It was amazing! I said to the guy, “If everybody is asking you, how do you know who’s doing it sincerely or not.” He said, “We think our stuff is so good, that if people taste it, they are going to buy it!” I don’t know if they still have it; otherwise, their cookie jars will be empty.) But a person has to understand that you’ve got to start [doing teshuvah] in the ‘easy’ places. Otherwise, Hashem will be tovei’a you like nobody’s business! So you’ve got to lock in it! Then you are a person who has a plan. And instead of telling Hashem, “I am not going to tell You that I won’t look at anything assur this year – it’s not possible,” you have to say to Hashem the following: “I know what my destination is. I know where I’ve got to get to.”

When a guy learns for 5 minutes, it doesn’t mean that after those 5 minutes are up, he can start looking at his phone, at all devarim assurim. It means that those 5 minutes are a commitment. And then after a couple of weeks, he can go up to 10 minutes, and then to more. That’s what he does. A person who talks loshon hora says, “I won’t talk loshon hora during meal time.” It’s very common for people to speak loshon hora during meals. Now, someone might say, “Oh, come on! What is that?! Is this called making a kabbalah?! Is this called teshuva?!” My friend, that’s an amazing teshuva! And Hashem says, “You did teshuva b’miktzas? I will give you kaporah!”

Rav Yisroel explains that you cannot imagine the benefits that a person gets from a little bit of teshuva on Yom Kippur! That’s how you change! But you have to change on your level. I can’t tell you how many people told me over the years, “Ay, I tried, but nothing worked.” I told them, “You are a shakran, you are a ba’al gaivah. Your Yom Kipuur was fake! You never wanted to change!” If a guy says, “I am going to grow to seven feet tall within the next month” – does it have any reality to it? No. It won’t happen for the rest of his life! You can’t change like that. Could a person become frum overnight? Of course not.

Let’s say there is a person who doesn’t know how to work on his chessed. I say to such a person, “What’s the minimum?” (You know, it’s amazing to watch shuls in Eretz Yisroel, where a lot of meshulachim come around. You can easily see how people work on their chessed.  One guy starts to put on his tallis all of the sudden, with an extra kavana, when a meshulach comes by, etc.) How much daily tzedakah could you give to work on your chessed? Could you give a couple of dollars without a problem? Why don’t you mekabel this and say to Hashem, “I am not going to pass a day without giving this minimum, and Hashem, I hope to make it more with time.” Start with the dollar and go up when Hashem shows you, “Oh, you are taka הבא לטהר and you want to do chessed!” Even though you got a p’tur from maaser, that doesn’t exempt you from giving tzedakah! The gemara says that the biggest ani in the world has to give tzedakah. I mean, the biggest ani in the world who’s patur from ma’aser has no problem walking into a pizza shop and ordering two slices, with a nice heap of french fries, and cheese on it!  And when you ask him, “Do you know this costs three times as much?!” he tells you, “No problem! Just throw it in!” My friend, you are patur from ma’aser, what are you doing? “Yeah, but this is for me! What is the shaichus?!” Or he goes into a car store and has no problem buying nice shtik for his car either. “What do you mean, this looks nice!” 

So be mechayiv yourself to do chessed every day. Everybody has “kalos” – everybody has time when aveiros are a very small challenge and very easy to overcome. And then there are times when it’s very hard. The Gemara (Menachos 43b, ibid) says that if a person doesn’t wear the whites in his tzitzis, he will get punished much more than if he didn’t wear techeles in his tzitzis, because techeles is hard to come by and it’s expensive, so it’s much harder to fulfill. But white tzitzis is always available, so why don’t you do it?!

Here is a lady who’s mezalzel b’tefillah.  I say to her, “You can’t say birchos hashachar?! You don’t even know birchos hashachar ba’al pe?” No. Do you know what it means? You have no interest whatsoever in communicating with Hashem! Here’s a guy who wants to be mechazek himself in his tefillah. He should go to the easiest spot. What, you can’t be mechaven in tefillah at all?! You can’t take just one brochah and start with one brocha?! But you don’t want to even start with one brocha, and even if you do, it lasts for about two days, and after three days, you forgot that you were even mekabel to start with one brochah

Rav Yisroel says that every single thing is broken down into different chalakim (positive or negative mitzvos), and everyone can change (see footnote #5). Could you not be mechaven in the first verse, when you say:  ה’ שְׂפָתַי תִּפְתָּח וּפִי יַגִּיד תְּהִלָּתֶֽךָ – Hashem open up my mouth and let my lips declare Your praise? You can’t be mechaven even in this introductory verse to davening?! Why not? Is it that hard? Even if people daven fast, this first pasuk they usually say slower, and afterwards they are “gone.” Therefore, if a person does this, he says, it will bring him some hope to have some shaichus, some connection with Yom Hakippurim. And hopefully it will bring him to be a ba’al teshuva gamur in that area, writes Rav Yisroel! At least he will make an azivas ha’chet (leaving behind the sin) in a light and easy manner in that area. That’s still very valuable! That’s seriously valuable! Hakodosh Boruch should help us awaken, and reach within to help yourselves, because that’s the time to do it, Rabbosai, while we still have a few days left! We need to help ourselves now, because no one else can help us. Try your best to make some preparations today, so that when you come to Erev Yom Kippur, you will feel confident, at least, in two small areas of your sins. Have a great Yom Tov!

The Bottom Line

We will come to Yom Kippur, but cannot expect to be cleansed and forgiven, without first settling our “credit card debts,” caused by our aveiros and setting ourselves up on the path of correction.  Realizing that the “repayment program” doesn’t continue past Yom Kippur is not as easy as it sounds, because the timtum ha’lev – brought about by our aveiros – desensitizes us  to the reality of the impending judgment and the impact of our actions. On top of that, many people have a mistaken view that they cannot bring any meaningful changes to their lives before Yom Kippur, unless they transform themselves completely, in any given area, which, of course, is impossible. This coming week, I will daven to Hashem to remove my timtum ha’lev, to help me become spiritually sober, to realize the seriousness of my “debt” and awaken within me the desire to come back to Hashem. I will then employ Rav Yisroel Salanter’s powerful strategy of doing partial teshuva, in several areas that do not present challenges or difficulties for me. For instance, to elevate my learning and davening, I will shut off my phone (or better yet, leave it in my car) while I am in shul. In addition, for the first 5 minutes of supper, I’ll resolve not to talk about other people. Finally, for the first 5 minutes when I am outside, I will be mekabel, bli neder, not to look where I am not supposed to. During Aseres Yemei Teshuva, I will, bli neder, increase these time intervals by a few minutes. And in the zechus of committing myself to making these small changes, I will see much siyata d’shmaya in my avodah of the upcoming Yomim Nora’im and have a transformational and cleansing Yom Kippur!

[i] תנא דבי רבי ישמעאל: עבירה מטמטמת לבו של אדם, שנאמר: ״ולא תטמאו בהם ונטמתם בם״, אל תקרי ״ונטמאתם״, אלא:״ונטמטם״. ת”ר: ״(אל) תטמאו בהם ונטמתם בם״, אדם מטמא עצמו מעט – מטמאין אותו הרבה. מלמטה – מטמאין אותו מלמעלה. בעולם הזה – מטמאין אותו לעולם הבא. [תנו רבנן: ״והתקדשתם והייתם קדושים״, אדם מקדש עצמו מעט – מקדשין אותו הרבה, מלמטה – מקדשין אותו מלמעלה, בעולם הזה – מקדשין אותו לעולם הבא.]

[ii] אמר רב יהודה בריה דרב שמואל משמיה דרב: אין הדליקה מצויה אלא במקום שיש חילול שבת, שנאמר: ״ואם לא תשמעו אלי לקדש את יום השבת ולבלתי שאת משא וגו׳ והצתי אש בשעריה ואכלה ארמנות ירושלים ולא תכבה״. מאי ״ולא תכבה״? אמר רב נחמן בר יצחק: בשעה שאין בני אדם מצויין לכבותה. אמר אביי: לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שחללו בה את השבת, שנאמר: ״ומשבתותי העלימו עיניהם ואחל בתוכם״.

[iii] תנו רבנן: מעשה במקום אחד שהיה ערוד, והיה מזיק את הבריות. באו והודיעו לו לרבי חנינא בן דוסא. אמר להם: הראו לי את חורו! הראוהו את חורו. נתן עקבו על פי החור, יצא ונשכו – ומת אותו ערוד. נטלו על כתפו והביאו לבית המדרש. אמר להם: ראו בני, אין ערוד ממית, אלא החטא ממית.

[iv] יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים דָּבָר טוֹב לִמְאֹד, יוֹם סְלִיחָה וְכַפָּרָה, לֹא הָיוּ יָמִים טוֹבִים לְיִשְׂרָאֵל כְּיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים (סוֹף תַּעֲנִית) אֵין לָנוּ דָּבָר טוֹב מִמֶּנּוּ, אִם הָיִינוּ עוֹשִׂים הַהֲכָנָה הָרְאוּיָה לְתִקּוּן דְּרָכֵינוּ, כִּי יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים מְכַפֵּר עִם הַתְּשׁוּבָה הִיא עֲזִיבַת הַחֵטְא – אָכֵן גַּם הַמְעַט טוֹב מְאֹד, אֵין עֲרֹךְ לָהּ בְּעִנְיְנֵי הַתֵּבֵל, לִרְאוֹת לְכָל הַפָּחוֹת שֶׁתִּהְיֶה אֵיזֶה קַבָּלָה עַל לְהַבָּא בְּיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים (אור ישראל ז׳)

[v] ולחלי היאוש בראותו כי התאוה גדולה לפניו, ואין לך מחלה כמו היאוש – ידע האדם כי כל עברה תתחלק לבחינות שונות, יש אשר כבד לפניו לשמר ממנה, ויש באותה עברה עצמה, אשר יקל לפניו בעתים שונות, או במצבים שונים כמו בבטול תורה, הבחינה שונה משבת לחל, מעת הטרדה לעת הפנויה, ממצב דעת הנטרדת, למצב דעת הצלולה וכיוצא – ובכל פרטי העברות העברה האחת, תתחלק לבחינות שונות לפי מצב האדם ותכונתו. לא כל העתים שוה, ולא כל התכונות שוות, וכל אשר יקל לפני האדם באיזה בחינה להשמר מהעברה, תגדל ענשו למעלה למעלה, כמאמר חכמינו ז”ל מנחות (דף מ”ג) גדול ענשו של לבן יותר מענשו של תכלת כו’ עין שם [וז”ל הגמ’ שם: תניא היה רבי מאיר אומר גדול עונשו של לבן יותר מעונשו של תכלת, משל למה הדבר דומה למלך בשר ודם שאמר לשני עבדיו לאחד אמר הבא לי חותם של טיט ולאחד אמר הבא לי חותם של זהב ופשעו שניהם ולא הביאו איזה מהן עונשו מרובה הוי אומר זה שאמר לו הבא לי חותם של טיט ולא הביא] ולזאת ירגיל האדם את עצמו לקים מאמר הכתוב משלי אם תבקשנה ככסף וגו’, להשקיף על תהלוכות צרכי הגוף וליקח ממנו משל ומליצה לנפשו, הלא בצרכי הגוף, איך יעמל האדם הקשה יום, להשיג מה לצרכי גופו אם כי מצער היא, ואיך לא יכבד לפני האדם להתעמל בעת דכאו ביסורים רחמנא לצלן, לחפש ולראות להקל מחלתו, ומדוע לא נעשה כה לנפשנו, לראות לכל הפחות לקים המצות הקלות לפנינו לקימם, ולהשמר מהעברה בבחינה הקלה, אשר תצילנו מיסורים קשים ומרים רחמנא לצלן, ובזה אין מקום ליאוש לפני האדם, אם ישים לבו ונפשו להשגיח בהנהגת צרכי הגוף, להשתמש בה בצרכי הנפש, אכן מהתשוקה והחפוש לקים המצות בשלמותם, הן למוד התורה וכיוצא, ולהשמר מהעברות לגמרי אל יניח ידו. (אור ישראל ז׳)

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