It hurts me to see people persecuting themselves. Succot should be a time of the greatest joy, especially in the intimacy of the family. Yet, people have sterna nad unhappy faces because they're still worried about Yom Kippur.
I know that if I tell them that there's nothing to worry about, they won't listen. So, I'll play their game. Suppose that they still have stern judgments hanging over them that somehow weren't atoned for on Yom Kippur (and that's only "suppose"). That's still not a problem, as we're about to prove:
Gratitude and trust, when mixed together, become a magical spiritual elixir that mitigates all stern judgments. The Gemara (Tractate Berachot, 10a) shows us a magnificent illustration of this principle in the following story: King Chizkiyahu was very ill. Isaiah the Prophet visited him and told him that his days were numbered. King Chizkiyahu answered, “Stop prophesying and leave! I learned from my grandfathers that even if a sharp sword is placed on your throat, don’t lose hope in [Hashem’s] mercy!”
What does this mean, the “sharp sword is placed on your throat”? Imagine the harshest decree signed and sealed on Yom Kippur; gratitude, trust and emuna can overturn this too. There’s always hope and no room for despair - ever.
We learn trust from King Chizkiyahu. Any person – no matter how low he has fallen – can make a complete turnaround and return to Hashem whenever he wants and under any circumstance. Things might look hopeless, but Hashem has infinite solutions and modes of salvation. Despair and depression are counterproductive. Trust, emuna, and gratitude work miracles.
Oftentimes, the Evil Inclination injects its poisonous propaganda into a person’s heart and brain. If it succeeds in reducing a person’s mood to the abyss of disappointment and despair, that person becomes neutralized. That’s why the Evil Inclination will tell you, “Hey, look what you’ve done! Look how terrible your sin is! You’ll never be forgiven…”
The Evil Inclination is a liar. Anyone sincerely desiring to make a new start in life can at any given moment. It’s so simple – Hashem loves every individual; He’ll unlock the door for anyone that truly seeks Him. We can always depend on Hashem’s mercy – this is the basis of our trust. We believe that Hashem is a loving Father and we thank Him for all His blessings. Soon, all the concealment dissipates…
With all this in mind, we can now appreciate what Rebbe Nachman of Breslev always emphasized – there is no despair in the world at all. There’s no reason for despair, since emuna, trust and gratitude provide a bright ray of light that guides a person out of the deepest and darkest tunnels in life.
Rebbe Nachman also answers the Evil Inclination’s claim that a person’s sin is unforgivable. Rebbe Nachman says, “If you believe that you can ruin, believe that you can rectify!” Once again, Rebbe Nachman’s teaching is anchored in the Gemara’s lesson about the power of teshuva (Yoma, 86a,b).
Hashem gives us a priceless gift called personal prayer. Anyone who spends an hour a day in gratitude, self-assessment, and teshuva attains a lofty level of emuna and trust. Hashem gives us the wonderful opportunity to judge ourselves; when we do so, Hashem doesn’t allow the Heavenly Court to judge us. Our sages explain that there is no double jeopardy in Divine jurisprudence – the Gemara says that if there is judgment in the material world, there is no need for judgment in the spiritual world.
Let’s take a closer look at the story of Isaiah the Prophet and King Chizkiyahu. There wasn’t a holier man that walked the face of the earth than Isaiah the Prophet. Isaiah received the loftiest prophecies. He spoke with Divine inspiration and a spirit of holiness. Yet King Chizkiyahu trusted so much in Hashem’s mercy that he could tell Isaiah, “Take your prophecies and get out of here!”
Do you know what that means? Suppose the sky turns dark with heavy clouds, bolts of lightning strike and a voice bellows from the Heavens declaring that all is lost - we don’t have to believe it! Our belief in G-d’s mercy and loving-kindness overrides everything, as long as our emuna is strong and our trust in Hashem is firm. It doesn’t matter what prophets say or how loud the thunder; we can always depend on emuna. Nothing is more conducive to inner peace than trusting in Hashem and depending on His mercy. Now, go enjoy your Succoth holiday!