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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
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Looking Back

We really are a bunch of schnorrers.
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rosh Hashanah has come and gone – the awesome time when we crowned Hashem as our King, proclaiming to the world and to ourselves that we are His princes and princesses, charged with a royal mission to live our lives differently and to be an example to the entire world.

Then came Yom Kippur – a day of trepidation and fear and yet one of hope and confidence. We stood powerless, begging for His mercy. Humbly we admitted that “we have sinned.” “Selach lanu“forgive us” – we begged. Yes, we were frightened; but at the same time it was with a song that we confessed. We knew it was our Father to whom we were appealing – our Father who loves us and holds us dear.

And then there was Sukkot – a festival of joy and celebration. This year Sukkot was especially wonderful, filled with sunshine and temperatures neither too hot nor too cold – just perfect!

But how long will the good spiritual feelings last? How long before we get back to our petty squabbling, our lashon hara, our lying and cheating, our fights with family, friends and neighbors? How long will our prayers remain sincere?

We really are a bunch of schnorrers. Year after year we shamelessly come before G-d begging and promising that this time we will get our act together and give nachas to our King and Father. And, amazingly, no matter how many times we’ve promised this before, our King opens the locked gates. He recognizes our knocks and opens immediately. He invites us in and embraces us.

Piously, we make our promises. We will get on the treadmill of mitzvot. We will treasure our relationship with our King. We will live at peace with our spouses, our children, our parents, our families and the larger family of Am Yisrael.

Yes, we make the promises – but how long will they last? How many of us will be making the same promises next year? Think about it and you’ll realize that we are so blessed to have a Father and a King who even from a distance hears our cry and never shuts the door on us.

Let us attempt to make this year different – even if just a little bit different because that little bit will be a lot. This year is a very critical one. The world is in crisis. And just consider how Israel, barely a dot on the map, is at the center of it all. If there ever is a time for us to beseech our Father for mercy, that time it is surely now.

My husband, HaRav Meshulam HaLevi Jungreis, ztl, would always make an acronym from the initials of the New Year. What would he have done with taf shin ayin daled – 5774? I feel he would have designated this year T’chey Sh’nas Aidim – “let this year be a year of witness” – a year of witness to G-d.

This is the unique mission that we, Hashem’s royal princes and princesses, have been entrusted with – to give witness to Almighty G-d. How do we do that? Let us start by living in such a way, by arranging our days in such a manner, that whoever meets us will be inspired by our conduct, by the way we go about our daily lives.

Let us be role models of kindness, faith, goodness, truth, gratitude, honesty and love of G-d, so that people will proclaim, “Surely these are the royal children of the King. These are the loving sons and daughters of a Compassionate Father.”

So how do we change and start a new life? Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have provided us with a perfect formula – we must only activate it. “Teshuvah, tefillah, tzedakah [repentance, prayer and charity] cancel the evil decree.” We are all familiar with those words. We pronounce them loud and clear but mostly they remain locked in our High Holiday machzors until next Yom Kippur. Is there a way we can keep the concept front and center in our everyday lives?

Let’s go backward. Let’s start with tzedakah, charity. Some years ago I was in Boro Park right before Rosh Hashanah. I love Boro Park. I love to watch mothers walking with their baby carriages surrounded by their many children. I love to see chassidim rushing to their shuls and batei medrash. I love to see the schoolgirls dressed in their modest uniforms with an air of innocence that is so refreshing in our immoral society.

I was taking it all in when my eyes were drawn to a woman dressed in a shabby black dress. She stood with an open pocketbook and called out to people passing by, “tzedakah, tzedakah, tzedakah.” Everyone dropped a few coins or dollars in her bag, smiling and wishing her a good year. I walked over to her and gave her my own tzedakah. She thanked me and gave me a berachah.

A moment later I noticed her leaning against a wall munching on some crackers. It was obvious she was tired and needed a lunch break. And then something strange occurred. As she was eating, a man came along and he too was calling out “tzedakah, tzedakah, tzedakah.” Not knowing she was in the same situation, he approached her. Amazingly, she reached into her pocketbook and shared with him some of the coins she had just collected.

Can you even imagine a scene like this occurring in most other places? We are a nation that has been entrusted with the responsibility of giving. We are a nation of givers. It’s part of being loving children of a compassionate, giving Father.

To Be Continued

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