And then there are those who are completely immersed in self-gratification, believing they will live forever. By the time the realization dawns that there is no stopping the clock and their time has run out, they missed the boat and die without virtue of having done teshuvah. Their bodies become fodder for worms and their souls face the punishment decreed by Hashem.

“Ashrei ish yerei es Hashem” exclaims Dovid Hamelech (Tehillim 112:1). Praiseworthy is the man who fears God and is repentant in his early years, when he is yet in full possession of his strength and faculties. This type of repentance is the most favored by Hashem. But Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur offer reprieve for each remorseful soul who beseeches God with a broken and contrite heart. (Shelah Hakadosh)


* * * *

Straightaway after marrying, R’ Dovid shied away from any real association with the regular folk. He kept to himself in his humble abode, devoting his hours to learning Torah and to faithfully serving his Creator – his wife dutifully dedicating herself to him and to his lofty mission in life.

When the atmosphere of the big city became too distracting, he relocated his growing family to a small rural area devoid of the daily hubbub that permeated the more densely populated region. R’ Dovid secured his livelihood by undertaking management of the town̓s inn, enabling him to earn his daily bread while pursuing what his soul was drawn to most.

His scrupulous honesty and unpretentiousness gained R’ Dovid the admiration and reverence of the patrons, who would often see him retreat to a corner to pray after their needs were served. They discerned early on that if Dudke (as they fondly referred to him) was “studying” when they entered the tavern, they’d be waited on momentarily. If, however, they would find him in a deep meditative stance (davening), no one and nothing would succeed in moving him from his spot or interrupting his concentration.

Indeed, R’ Dovid would arise early each morning and immerse himself in hours of intense prayer before greeting his first customers of the day. In the afternoon, his wife would take over as R’ Dovid withdrew for Mincha prayers. The patrons, soothed by the calm and peaceful ambience, drank in the pleasure of keeping a watchful eye on their esteemed Dudke and lending an ear to the undertone of his comforting voice.

Several tranquil years later, the township’s cleric passed away. His replacement developed a vehement resentment of R’ Dovid’s widespread popularity. So strog was the vicar’s envy, augmented by his detestation of the Jewish people, that he was driven to defame the innkeeper at any cost.

On Rosh Hashanah of that year, R’ Dovid was divinely inspired to abandon his routine of attending the High Holiday services in the synagogue of the big city. The tavern’s frequenters who neared the inn on Rosh Hashanah were certain that Dudke had evolved into a celestial being. Even the trees seemed to sway to the melodious angelic sounds that wafted from the open window.

The cleric could bear no more. He promptly set off to fetch his comrade, the poritz (landowner), with whom he returned posthaste. Soon they too were spellbound by the rigid form of R’ Dovid wrapped in his tallis. The clergyman wrested himself from his hypnotic absorption and directed the poritz to call out to R’ Dovid.

“Dudke! Open the door at once!” Not the slightest hint of movement was detected. The poritz was incensed. The shameless audacity of the Jew, he spat. “Call him again,” insisted his cohort. “If he will not respond, take the door down!”

“Dudke!” bellowed the poritz. “I warn you to obey my command or you will live to regret it!” R’ Dovid was motionless. A blast of gunfire punctuated the momentary silence. The poritz had squeezed off several rounds of fire in the air, but his objective backfired. It was he and the clergyman who shook with fright as they took in R’ Dovid’s absolute obliviousness to his surroundings – as if he were not of this world.

At that point, R’ Dovid paused to retrieve his shofar. The astounded onlookers froze in fear as the piercing sounds of the ram’s horn reverberated around them and infiltrated every fiber of their being. A grudging respect for R’ Dovid overcame them both.

“Why didn’t you respond to my call?” the poritz later asked with forced assertiveness. “Are you not aware that as an overlord I am entitled to your undivided attention?”

“I was praying to the Master of all creation,” came R’ Dovid’s steadfast reply. “at which time no earthly existence can intimidate me.”

Convinced that here stood no ordinary mortal, the clergyman was left veritably in awe of this man of God who displayed such conviction and courage.

Not long afterward, as R’ Dovid basked in the joyous serenity of his beautifully decorated sukkah, he received an unlikely visitor. The cleric had come to engage the rabbi in earnest discussion of religion and faith.

“I’m baffled,” said the clergyman. “I’ve seen men of your religious persuasion praying before . . . and never standing still. They shake and sway, heads bobbing, shoulders heaving, yet you moved not a muscle.”

A deferential R’ Dovid indulged the cleric. “Logic dictates that one who stands before the King of kings would be transfused with a trembling fear and utmost respect. But what is a man to do if he is prone to losing himself and sinning inadvertently, thus causing a blockage in his heart – which then necessitates some joggling to dislodge the dirt that is mired in his soul?

“How does the sinner dare to stand and pray before the Master of the World, against Whom he has transgressed?” postulated the cleric.

R’ Dovid expounded: “Once there lived a king who had amassed a great fortune and resolved to have a magnificent castle built. He instructed a famed architect to spare no expense in erecting the grandest edifice the world had ever seen. The builder was allotted acces to the most extravagant materials, exquisite stones, and marvelous works of art – a monumental assignment to be accomplished in a three-year time frame.

“The big day arrived, and the king was duly summoned to survey the completed superstructure. With a perceptive and penetrating eye, he inspected the minutest details of the palatial quarters, down to the smallest piece of furnishing.

“Testing every receptacle for smoothness of operation, the monarch found one drawer that would not yield despite a nudging and prodding. The craftsman produced a piece of cloth and swiped some dust from the side of the drawer. Without further ado, the drawer glided open flawlessly. He explained to the king that precisely because of the punctiliousness of every detail down to a hair, a mere speck of dust could create an impediment.

“And so it is with us, in whom God invests a pure and unblemished soul. Assuredly we should stand before our Maker upright and unmoving, with the greatest respect and awe. But our errant ways compel us to shake the accumulated grime from our neshamos, to awaken us to heartfelt prayer. Our God rejects no one, provided our faith in Him is sound. His infinite love for us, His children, motivates us to return to Him with sincere repentance.”


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Rachel Weiss is the author of “Forever In Awe” (Feldheim Publishers) and can be contacted at