MONDAY 9/29/97 Ohr L'28 Ellul 5757
I was asked to post a few words as a Rosh Hashana message.
It usually takes me a while to "get my act together", but since it is only a couple of days before Rosh Hashana, I will try to be a little quicker.
My only request is that you reciprocate and take the time to read and to THINK ABOUT these words which I hope will bring you chizuk-encouragement.
The Mash (Rav Yisroel Chaim Blumenfeld-Mashgiach of Neve Zion) recently gave a pre-selichos sicha. He read over a Readers' Digest article (you can guess who gave it to him) which can help us reflect on the upcoming "Days of Awe".
It was entitled "Your Permanent Record" by Bob Greene.
"You remember the Permanent Record. In school you were constantly being told that if you messed up, the news would be sent to the principal and placed in your Permanent Record.
Nothing more needed to be said. No one had ever seen a Permanent Record. That didn't matter. We knew it was there.
We imagined a steel filing cabinet crammed full of Permanent Records-one for each kid in the school. I think we always assumed that our Permanent Record was sent on to college with us, and later to our employers,- probably with a duplicate to the U.S. government.
I have a terrible feeling that mine was the last generation to know what a Permanent Record was- and it has disappeared as a concept in society.
There was a time when people really stopped before they did something they knew was decietful, immoral, or unethical. They didn't stop because they were such holy folks. They stopped because they had a nagging fear that if they did the foul deed, it would end up on their Permanent Record.
At some point in the last few decades, I'm afraid, people wised up to something that amazed them: there is no Permanent Record. They discovered that no matter how badly you fouled up your life or the lives of others, there was nothing about it on your record. You would always be forgiven, no matter what.
So pretty soon men and women- instead of fearing the Permanent Record- started laughing at it. The things that they used to be ashamed of, that once made them cringe when they thought about them, now became "interesting" aspects of their personalities.
If the details were weird enough, the kind of things that would have really jazzed up the Permanent Record, people sometimes wrote books confessing them, and the books became best-sellers. they found out that other people- far from scorning them-would line up in bookstores to get their autographs. Talk-show host would say, "Thank you for being so honest with us. I'm sure our audience understands how much guts it takes for you to tell us these things." Permanent Records were being opened up for the whole world to see-and the sky didn't fall in.
As Americans began to realize that there probably never had been a Permanent Record, they deduced that any kind of behavior was permissible. All you had to do was say, "That was a real crazy period in my life." All would be okay.
And there is where we are today. We have accepted the notion that no one is keeping track. No one is even allowed to keep track. I doubt that you could scare a school-kid nowadays by telling him that the principal was going to inscribe something on his Permanent Record; the kid would file a suit under the Freedom of Information Act and expect to obtain his Permanent Record by recess. Either that, or call it up on his or her computer and delete it.
As for us adults, it has been so long since we believed in the Permanent Record that the very mention of it now brings a nostalgic smile to our faces. We feel naive for ever having believed there was such a thing.
BUT WHO REALLY KNOWS? (My emphasis) On some distant day when we check out of this earthly world and approach the gates of our new eternal home, our smiles may freeze. We just might be greeted by a heavenly presence sitting there, casually leafing through a dusty, battered volume of our Permanent Record, as we come jauntily into view."
The author wonders, "But who really knows..."
In Pirkey Avos (2:1),"... Consider three things and you wont come to the hands of sin: Know what is above you- a watchful eye, an attentive Ear, and ALL OF YOUR DEEDS ARE RECORDED IN A BOOK."
Chapter 3 Mishna 20, "... The store is open; the Merchant extends credit; the ledger is open; the hands write..."
But we also know that Hashem in His Mercy has a given us the tool to delete it-that is Teshuvah.
In fact the Yaaros Devash-Rav Yonosson Eibshutz, zt'l Chapter 1 Derush 1 (cited in the Mishna Brura 603:2) points out that there are seven days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and they correspond to the seven days of the week. On each day you can do teshuvah for that day ;e.g. on Sunday do teshuvah for all the sins that you did all of your days on Sunday, and so on Monday and all the other days.
Some of us may think, "Why do I need all this davening and teshuva? The last few years I didn't do any of it and I still had a good year? So why should this year be different?
My Rebbi would always explain that we find an interesting concept by Lot and Sodom. In Breishis 19:20 Lot asks the Angel to go to a small town near Sodom which might not be destroyed. Rashi (ibid) explains that even though that town was also wicked but it was inhabited 1 year after Sodom so it had 1 year less of sins and "its measure (of sins) was not filled yet," and it might be spared. And so it was. Rashi calculates that Sodom had 52 years of sins and the other town only 51.
Imagine telling the Sodomites they should do teshuvah and daven. They would claim that they didn't do it the last 51 years and nothing happened.
We see that Hashem has patience up to a point. He waits till the "measure of sins are filled". Don't think that we all have 52 years. Each place and person has his own measure. Only Hashem knows the limit. How can we take a chance???
It's like cholestorol . A person can feel fine one momemt and chas vesholom have a heart attack the next. When they tell him his cholestorol blocked his vein, he says well it never was a problem for the last 20 years. The answer is that it didn't happen all at one moment. Rather it was the constant accumulation from many years of drops of cholestorol that finally blocked the whole vein. So it is with sins.
I will end off with one point that I like to stress every Rosh Hashana.
One of the additions that we say in Shmoneh Esreh in the first Brocho is "Zachreinu l'chaim...Lmaanca Elokim Chaim"- "Remember us for life...For Your sake Elokim ."
What does this mean "for Your sake?"
The commentaries explain a very important concept and I usually add a moshol to understand it better.
If a child will ask his father for a small amount of money his father will usually accede to his wishes without inquiring as to the purpose of the money.
However if it is a considerable amount, say a hundred dollars, then there will have to a good reason for the son to deserve it.
If it's a tremendous amount, $50,000, then it would take an emergency to get his father's consent.
Here we are on Rosh hashana asking "Our Father" for the most precious commodity of "Life" which is "priceless" . We are going to be asked the obvious. "What do you want it for?
What are you going to do with it? The same as you did till now? Well, I don't know!!!"
So , we say, and hopefully with somewhat of a sincerity, "For Your sake"-to do Torah and Mitzvos.
As we always stress that we are not expected to change overnight our actions. But our outlook can change. All Hashem wants us to do is turn ourselves around and start making that first move to TESHUVAH-RETURN and little by little we will return completely to Hashem. (See the end of How To Listen To a Sicha)
May Hashem help that we take these words to heart and act upon them immediately before they wear off.
May we all be zocheh to a Kesiva Vechasima Tova, a year of true Shalom with the coming of Moshiach, bimhera beyomeinu Omein.
List of Rabbi Price's sichot
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