Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson

The Yom Kippur Corporate Take-over


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Tishrei 5 5781
"Lord, it’s hard to be humble – when you’re perfect in every way!"

That classic Country & Western song seems to perfectly sum up the contrasting moods of Rosh Hashana & Yom Kippur. We gravitate between feeling very confident of ourselves – indeed, we are said to approximate angels, dressed in pure white - & yet we are fearful of our future, pleading with G-d to please forgive us & let us go on living.

We are, as the Tefila so aptly says, both "favored children ("banim"), as well as lowly servants ("avadim").

Rav Yehoshua Goodman zt"l, the sainted rav of my shul in Chicago, was one of the leaders of Chabad in the city; it was he who first instilled in me the desire to do kiruv. He took me under his wing & trained me. ("If you want to lead ‘em, you have to feed ‘em!" was one of the lessons he taught us).

In my mind’s eye, I can still see him in shul on Yom Kippur, as he stood majestically wrapped in his Talit, intensely reciting the prayer, "L’kel Orech Din." It is a Tefila which places us, as it were, in the docket, in court, being tried by the Heavenly Tribunal. When he reached the line that says "To He who legally acquires His servants," ("L’koneh avadav ba-din") he would break down crying, vigorously nodding his head up & down in agreement.

I approached him when shul was over and I asked him why this line was so special, so crucial, & he explained it to me:

"We mortals think we are so powerful, so independent, so much in control of our fate. But the truth is, try as we might, we really have little or no control at all over the vicissitudes of life. Danger is everywhere, & problems lurk around every corner. At some point – if we are humble & wise – we learn that our only real safety lies in coming under Hashem’s saving power and protection."

"And so, we acknowledge to G-d that we truly, literally ARE His servants. For you see, we know that the Torah commands the master to protect his servants, to see to their needs, to feed, shelter & safeguard them from harm. And since even Hashem is bound to abide by His own Torah, we declare that he is the Master & we are the servant. In that way, we can actually ‘force’ Him to take care of us! That is the power of this prayer, & that is why I focus so passionately on it."

I am a great believer in the partnership between Man & G-d. I hold that we must not be passive spectators; Hashem wants us to actively work in tandem with Him to move this world along towards complete Geula. And so - in the midst of this epic struggle with Corona - we must of course do everything in our power to stay safe, and to search for a vaccine. But we should never let our confidence go to our heads; we must remember that we are the junior partner in this team, while G-d is the Corporation! There is no greater goal, no better security, than being "acquired" by Hashem. When that happens – just like in the world of business - everyone gains. So let us pray that all of us achieve a quick and successful "exit" to a place of health, reunion with our families and the ability to impact the world at large.
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