JWR Outlook

Jewish World Review Sept. 11, 2000 / 10 Elul, 5760

The Special of the Day

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THE SHOPPER plies the aisles of the local supermarket, adhering strictly to the list he had prepared. Unexpectedly, he comes upon a great pyramid of Cheerios, topped by a bright yellow banner: "Half Price, No Limit!" With seven little Cheerios-loving children to feed at home, the shopper considers getting an extra shopping cart and filling it to the brim with the precious golden boxes of toasted "Os." Then he checks his watch. With an appointment scheduled in just 20 minutes, there's no time to get another cart and stock up.

"Maybe I should just take what I can now, and come back for the rest," he thinks. "No," he finally decides. "That's foolish. I'll just come back tomorrow and get it all at one time."

The next day, his car won't start. The following day, he gets bogged down at work. Finally, three days later, he returns to the supermarket to search for the bright pyramid of half-price Cheerios. It's gone. He can still get his Cheerios, but they're going to cost him full price.

Certain times are ripe for certain things, and when that moment is missed, it is difficult, if not impossible, to recapture. The Torah calls such an opportune time an "eis ratzon."

From the first of the Hebrew month of Elul until the end of Yom Kippur is the "eis ratzon" for teshuvah, or repentance. Now is the time when the Creator eagerly awaits our move, eases our path and opens the door to His returning children. Yes, one must do teshuvah in the other months as well, even when the cost is high. But in now, it's ours for the taking, if we seize the opportunity.

Better Relationships


When scientists wish to track the activities of a bird or animal, they tag it. That way, they can follow its movements as it carries on its activities throughout the day. Imagine if that procedure could be followed with the words we speak. Where do they go once they issue from our mouths? Who hears them? Who repeats them? What effect do they have as they trace their path through Heaven and earth? If any of those words are loshon hora, or gossip, we might find that they carve a path of destruction we never could have predicted.

The far-flung path of our words, says the graet sage, the Chofetz Chaim, makes it difficult to do teshuvah for loshon hora. Not only don't we know where our words go once they leave us. Quite possibly, a person may not even remember what he has said, about whom he has said it, or to whom he said it. How, then, can he hope to retract his words or seek forgiveness from those he has hurt? In such a case, says the Chofetz Chaim, the best means of teshuvah is to actively encourage the mitzvah of guarding one's tongue. In this way, one can repair, to some degree, the irreparable.

Adapted from "Chofetz Chaim: A Daily Companion," a project of Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation and Mesorah Publications

Effective Prayer


The students of Yeshivah Ohel Torah in the town of Baranovich in Eastern Europe followed the lead of their Rosh Yeshivah (dean), Rav Elchanan Wasserman, in praying with great care, precision and concentration. Once, when the Rosh Yeshivah was ill, a group of students came to his house to enable him to pray with a minyan. A new student was selected to lead the prayers, which he did at the speedy pace he was accustomed to from his hometown synagogur.

Following the service, Rav Elchanan spoke to the young man quietly. "I want you to know that the verse 'You will run away even when no one is chasing you' [Lev. 26:17] is part of the admonishment given by Moses to Jewry."

In Elul, we focus more intently upon our prayers, knowing that they are integral, along with tzedakah (charity) and teshuvah (repentance), in determining the Creator's decrees for the year that is about to begin. As we embark on the essential work of prayer, we can learn from Rav Elchanan's words. No one is chasing us. There's no need to run.

Adapted from "In the Footsteps of the Maggid," by Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn, with permission from Mesorah Publications

Inner Excellence


Ephraim's elderly mother was becoming deafer by the day. Despite the pleasant expression etched upon her face, she was lonely. Yet visiting her was the hardest thing for Ephraim to do, simply because she wouldn't wear a hearing aid. He'd become tense, then sarcastic, then down- right angry, as his mother shrugged and resigned herself to her ill-tempered visitor.

One day, Ephraim's friend accompanied him on a visit. Despite Ephraim's attempt at restraint, his impatience seethed just below the surface. "I'll bet that no matter how you ever tried your mother's patience, she never looked at you the way you were looking at her," his friend later admonished him.

Ephraim was overwhelmed with guilt. His heart broke as he pictured the resigned smile with which she weathered his stormy visits. How could he ever face his mother again?

When G-d rejected the offering brought by Cain, Cain was angry and crestfallen. G-d urged him away from despair with the words, "If you do well, you will be raised up." But Cain remained dejected, and that ultimately brought him to a far greater sin.

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz explained that remaining dejected over a sin, rather than rising up immediately to correct it, is a result of the evil inclination's work.

A sin knocks a person down, but it's the evil inclination that holds him there, overwhelming him with guilt that prevents him from rising and repairing the damage. Staying down, says Rabbi Levovitz, is worse than falling in the first place.

Guilt is the fuel of teshuvah. It isn't meant to flood the workings of our hearts; it's meant to give us the push, the power, to move to higher ground.

Adapted from "Growth Through Torah," by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, with permission from the author

Life's Lessons


When he was a small boy, Rav Yechiel, the grandson of Rav Baruch of Medzhibozh, asked his grandfather a question. "If G-d knows everything, why did He ask Adam, 'Where are you?' after his sin?" The grandfather didn't answer, but a short while later, he asked little Yechiel, "Would you like to play hide and seek?"

The child was thrilled. He hid and waited, while his grandfather sat down at his desk to learn. After waiting quite awhile, Yechiel emerged from his hiding place weeping. "Grandfather, you forgot all about me. You didn't even look for me!" he wailed.

"This," said the grandfather, "is the answer to your question. After eating the fruit and hiding from G-d, Adam would have been too ashamed to come out. By 'looking' for Adam, G-d gave him the chance to make contact with him, so that he could once more face his Creator."

Adapted from "Words of Wisdom, Words of Wit," by Shmuel Himelstein, with permission from Mesorah Publications

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