Photo Credit: Asher Schwartz

As the new year begins, we make every effort to behave in a more upstanding manner and to increase our good deeds. Is this not fraud? Are we not involved in a deception? After all, we know at the onset that there may be many things that we will not be able to keep up the entire year? Maybe, our attempt to do these extra things that we don’t normally do, stems from the fact that the High Holidays are meant to be a time when we reveal our true abilities and potential.

 

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The Baal Shem Tov, in Devarim, teaches us a parable that gives us significant insight into teshuva. In it, he describes a glittering palace in the distance, with many people trying to reach it. However, there are also many walls and obstacles placed before it. Just as someone manages to get over one wall, he is met by the sight of lions, bears and other terrifying obstacles, which cause many of the people to stop trying. The obstacles become more and more frightening until almost everyone eventually gives up. In the end, only those who reach the palace are able to see that all of the walls and wild animals etc. were really an optical illusion; they were only imaginary – a “virtual reality”. He realizes that there were no walls or frightening beasts after all, but rather, only beautiful gardens and orchards.

The lesson of this parable is that man is scared to change, he is afraid of doing teshuva. Teshuva seems so distant from him. And yet, when a person does indeed succeed in hurtling over the walls and overcoming all of the barriers, he can suddenly see just how much more appropriate this newfound state is for him. Suddenly, he sees and understands that all of those things that were holding him back were really just an “optical illusion”. All at once, he realizes that the previous reality that he was in was not good for him at all; that actually his current, newfound state is really good, suitable and propitious for him.

 

Perhaps it is true, that at the beginning of the year man is attempting to do it all; to fix, change, improve, and uplift everything, all at once. Perhaps such a tremendous undertaking is too much for him. Nevertheless, it is definitely possible that after he has tested his true powers and abilities, he will discover new strengths. He will discover that the things which he thought had no connection to him whatsoever, are so truly right and suitable for him. He will realize, that the palace which had seemed so very distant from him, is really so close, accessible, and relevant.

 

Currently, people find themselves in great apprehension and concern due to the Coronavirus pandemic. There are millions who are sick, and hundreds of thousands have died. It is a very complicated and challenging time.

 

In addition, many people are worried about their financial situation. Many businesses have collapsed or downsized dramatically. Many people have been fired or laid off, without knowing if or when they will return to their jobs. What can be done?

 

We had a similar situation here in Israel, fifteen years ago, when thousands of people lost their jobs after the expulsion from Gush Katif. I saw the tragic situation of the residents of Gush Katif. I saw the huge problem so many of them faced as they were left unemployed.

 

Thank God, Hashem helps us to find new strengths and gives us the courage and fortitude to do things we never would have believed we could do. Baruch Hashem, we succeeded in returning 3000 people to the workforce and establishing 280 new businesses. We were able to discover new strengths and talents in these amazing people. We saw firsthand, how people who thought they would never manage to rebuild their lives, were able to forge new paths and reach a better place. In the past few years, we have succeeded in helping the Ethiopian community: funding their academic learning in nursing school; and helping thousands of soldiers who come from needy families. With every one of these cases, we saw how new strengths could be revealed, and how they could succeed despite the fact that it appeared hopeless.

 

The same is true with Corona. The challenges and difficulties are not easy, but we believe that Hashem is taking the world to a better place. I believe that with God’s help, everyone will succeed in discovering new strengths and talents, and reach greater heights that they could not have reached without the Coronavirus.

 

Our mission is to discover new strengths within ourselves and to help others discover theirs. With God’s help, we will merit to see all of the good in Am Yisrael, in the world, in ourselves, and in our families. We will reveal our full potential, and make the world a better place. ??Enrich your Rosh Hashanah table with this downloadable gift, and fun page for kids.

(Translation: Rebbetzin Sara Krengel)

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Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon, is the founder and chairman of La’Ofek (formerly JobKatif) which has enabled more than 2,650 individuals to break the ceiling of poverty and enjoy financial security. He is an internationally acclaimed author, lecturer and educator and posek in Halacha whose responses to individuals and communities have been pivotal in shaping the contemporary Jewish world. In recognition of his outstanding achievements, Rav Rimon was awarded the Katz Prize in 2018, the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism in 2014 and the President’s Prize for Volunteerism in 2008. He is Rabbinic Head of the Jerusalem College of Technology and serves as the Rabbi of Alon Shvut South in Gush Etzion.
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