Did you hear what Macy’s did? After being closed for five months because of the pandemic, the mega-retailer expected to come back booming. To its chagrin, it discovered that people were still reticent to enter its doors for fear of the virus. And those who did enter couldn’t try on clothing because Macy’s kept its dressing rooms closed to impede the spread of the virus; when people realized that, they opted to shop online instead.
So Macy’s decided to make an unheard of four-day sale, September 24-28 – 85 percent off on its entire inventory, including designer labels, jewelry, and perfumes.
What? You didn’t hear about it? I’m not surprised. I just made it up. But I’m sure that as soon as you read the previous paragraph, you said to yourself, “I have to make a trip to Macy’s. Only a fool would pass up such an opportunity.”
This is the way we need to feel during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. Only once a year, during these 10 days, is Hashem is available to everyone no matter how sullied he or she is. “Dirshu Hashem b’himotza’oh – Seek out Hashem when he can be found” – the Gemara says these words refer to the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah.
The Rambam informs us that on Rosh Hashanah, three books are opened in Heaven. In the first book, the completely righteous are immediately signed and sealed for life. In the second book, the completely wicked are signed and sealed for death. In the third book lies the fate of most people who are neither wholly good nor wholly wicked. Their fates are suspended and not immediately recorded. If they do teshuvah, they are sealed for life. If not… well, we don’t want to talk about it.
Everyone asks: If our fate hangs in the balance, why doesn’t the Rambam recommend that we do many mitzvos to tilt the scales in our favor? Why does he recommend only doing teshuvah?
The classic answer is that we are being judged now for the year 5780, and any mitzvah we do now only enters the 5781 ledger. As your accountant can tell you, your deductions for 2020 can’t help for your 2019 returns.
This answer, however, is not so simple for the holy sefarim tell us that we should try to do as many mitzvahs as possible during this time, such as buying a lulav and esrog, seemingly implying that extra mitzvos performed now affect our impending verdict.
Rav Itzele Blazer, the great baal mussar, gives a different answer. He explains that even if we do many extra mitzvos, if we don’t do teshuvah, we are spurning Hashem’s outstretched hand, and the sin of ignoring Hashem’s benevolence is so great that it outweighs the merit of any mitzvah we may do. If we would make time for Macy’s, we absolutely need to make time for a personal reckoning and a “to-do-better” list to make sure Hashem grants us a sweet new year.
With Covid-19 storm clouds still brewing, with racial unrest and anti-Semitism swirling all around us, with a presidential election that may spurn all kinds of dangerous violence, and with a very uncertain economy, it behooves us to take matters in our own hands and show Hashem that we are doing our part by repairing ourselves spiritually so that He will shine His blessings upon us.
In the merit of us improving both in mitzvos bein adam l’Makom and mitzvos bein adam l’chaveiro, may Hashem bless us with the seal of long life, good health, and everything wonderful.