Saturday, September 26, 2009

Another Gem from ShulWeek

Rabbi Michoel Feder (not real name) was shopping in a crowded kosher bakery on Erev Yom Kippur (day before Yom Kippur) where he met a man from his congregation, Jack Bender (not real name). Jack was a man who came to shul every year for the high holidays and usually seemed bored, uncomfortable, and anxious to get out of there.

Jack said, "Rabbi, I come to the services every year; but really, what's the point? How many people do you know who keep all the 'resolutions' they make on Yom Kippur? Is there a person in the world who repented on Yom Kippur for all his sins and never sinned again? And most of us have trouble seeing even the smallest improvement from one Yom Kippur to the next. Isn't it all a waste of time? Who are we fooling? Certainly not G-d. And if were honest not even ourselves. I've seen a lot of scams in my time but this is the biggest ever."

There was a hushed silence. The assembled crowd was shocked that Jack could speak so disrespectfully, yet at the same time, everyone wanted to know what the Rabbi could argue or how he would respond. All eyes and ears were focused on Rabbi Feder.

"I had to do a number of chores today in preparation for the holiday, one of which was to take my car to the carwash," began Rabbi Feder, "Have you ever been to a carwash Jack?"

"Of course I have," answered Jack, "I have brought my car there many times. What's the point?"

Rabbi Feder continued, "Within minutes of driving out of the carwash your car has already lost its pristine gleam and within a week it starts to look like any other dirty car. Why does anyone bother? Sometimes Yom Kippur feels a lot like a car wash."

"Granted," replied Jack pensively.

"Have you ever tried to clean a car that hasn't been washed in years? It's almost impossible. The dirt and the grime have eaten into the paint. It's practically impossible to make the car shine. It's true that the gleam on our car is very short-lived, but there's a more important reason we make our weekly trip to the carwash. It gives us the possibility of returning to the shine of the original paint-work," explained the Rabbi, "Yom Kippur is the same. The sheen with which we leave shul after Yom Kippur may wear off pretty quickly, but if we never experienced a Yom Kippur, soon we'd become so spiritually dulled that we would be virtually unable to get back to the luster of our "original paint-work."

Jack attended Yom Kippur services with a whole new attitude. The emotion that he had was palpable. That and every Yom Kippur since, has been a new and moving experience for Jack and for all who know him.

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