2 Cheshvan 5781 / Tuesday, October 20, 2020 | Torah Reading: Noach
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The Ten Days of Repentance    

The Ten Days of Repentance

The Ten Days of Teshuva are a spiritual ‘fair.’ If used properly, we can use them to attain spiritual heights. But we must remember to take advantage of them, otherwise...


The Ten Days of Teshuva (Repentance) are a time of spiritual growth and renewal. We prepare for them throughout the month of Elul; they begin on Rosh Hashana and reach their climax on Yom Kippur.
Rabbi Shalom Schwadron, the famous maggid of Jerusalem, (a maggid gives fiery talks of ethical exhortation to his community), told the following parable:
Isaac the merchant spent weeks preparing for the regional fair. Together with his wife and five small children, he organized and packaged his wares. When he was finished, he sealed each package with a special knot so he could tell if anyone had tampered with them.
Isaac's five children excitedly accompanied their father in the predawn darkness to see him off as he set out on his trip. They knew that if their father succeeded in selling his wares, he would return home with a wagon full of presents!
Isaac traveled throughout the morning and reached his destination by early afternoon. He davened mincha and then returned to the hotel to rest up from the rigors of his travels. By the time he woke up from his nap, it was already dark and too late to start selling his wares. That evening he stayed up late eating supper and talking with friends. He was thoroughly enjoying himself.
By the time Isaac went to sleep that night it was well past midnight, and he woke up very late the following morning -- well, actually it was early afternoon. By the time he finished davening and eating breakfast, it was late afternoon. He decided that it wasn’t worthwhile to go to the fair so late in the day, and that he'd begin selling his wares first thing the next morning.
The following morning, Isaac woke up at the crack of dawn, davened in the early minyan and rushed through breakfast. But just as he was about to leave the inn and set out to the fair he met an old friend. They got into a heated discussion, others joined in and Isaac he remained to hear their opinions. Before he knew it, another day had passed.
That night, Isaac went to sleep early. He was determined that the following day nothing would stop him from getting down to business. He woke early, davened in the early minyan, and skipped breakfast to avoid distractions. But when he arrived at the fair grounds, it was empty. The fair had ended the night before.
Isaac returned home, despondent. He had wasted so much time and money. When his children sighted his wagon in the distance, they ran to greet him, their eyes eager with anticipation! What goodies was their father bringing home for them?
Isaac's wife and the children rushed to bring all the packages into the house.  But then they noticed the knots. "What happened?" they asked, completely confused. "Didn’t you go to the fair?”
Overcome with shame, Isaac replied, “Yes, I was there.”
“But you didn't even untie the packages. Why not?” the children cried.
Rabbi Schwadron explains that the Ten Days of Teshuva are a spiritual ‘fair.’ If used properly, we can use them to attain spiritual heights. But we must remember to take advantage of them, otherwise, like Isaac the merchant, we will miss our golden opportunity.
My Beloved is Knocking
Menachem desperately missed his beloved son. He had moved to another country, married and had children. Menachem had never met his daughter-in-law, or seen his grandchildren. Although he constantly invited his son to visit, he was much too busy with his business and family obligations to even consider making such an arduous journey. Finally Menachem informed his son, “Since it’s difficult for you to come to me, I will go to you.”
From the moment Menachem purchased a ticket for the ocean liner that would take him halfway across the world to see his beloved son, he could think of nothing else except for the emotional reunion they would have. When the great day arrived, he boarded the ocean liner loaded with luggage and cases full of presents.
Throughout the entire trip, Menachem dreamed of the emotional reunion awaiting him. He paced the deck looking for the first sign of land on the horizon. From his perch on deck he scanned the waiting crowd for a glimpse of his son and family, but he did not see them there.
Menachem waited impatiently for the ocean liner to drop anchor so he could get off the boat and search the crowd more carefully. But his son was not there.
Menacham was positive that his son must be so busy preparing for his visit that he could not get away to meet him at the port.
Menachem boarded a train that would take him to the city where his son lived. He was sure he would find his son waiting for him at the train station. But he was in for another disappointment; his son was not there.
By now, Menachem was beginning to worry. Something must have happened. Perhaps his son was sick or even… he quickly pushed away such horrible thoughts and ordered a taxi to take him to his son's home.
On the taxi ride across town, Menachem forced himself to remain calm and began dreaming of the warm reception awaiting him. But when he arrived at the correct address, he saw that his son’s house was completely dark!
Menachem started knocking softly at the front door. No one answered. He continued knocking, louder and louder until, finally, he was banging on the door with all his might. From inside he heard a voice gruffly call out, "Who's banging at this hour of the night?"
Menachem recognized his son's voice. "It's me, your father," he called out, anticipating the emotional reunion that would occur in just a few moments. "I’ve come a long way, my son. Open the door. It's your beloved father.”
After a moment’s silence the son yelled, “I’m already in pajamas. It's too late for me to come downstairs and open the door. There's an inn across the street. Stay there tonight and I'll come to see you tomorrow morning."
Menachem almost had a heart attack. “For years," he thought, "I waited for my son to visit. When he didn’t come, I traveled across the world to see him. But although I'm knocking at his door, he doesn't want to see me! He won't even come downstairs to greet me! I won't wait for him any longer. I'm returning home, right now!"
The following morning, the son woke up feeling guilty. How could he have acted like that? He quickly got dressed and ran across the street to see his father. But his father was gone.
The entire year, explains Rabbi Schwadron, Hashem waits for us to return to Him. When He sees that we are not returning to Him, He comes to us on the Ten Days of Repentance, about which it is said, "Seek God when He is found, call Him when He is close.”
But if, like Menachem's son, we ignore our Father's cry, and do not come to Him, on Yom Kippur Hashem actually knocks on the doors of our hearts! He is so close, all we have do is come "down the stairs" down from the false heights of our arrogance and open the door to a Father who is waiting to be reunited with His son.
“Hark, my beloved is knocking.” – Hashem is knocking at our door. Like the son in the story, instead of rushing to greet our Father, we respond: “I have taken off my cloak, how can I put it on? I have washed my feet, how can I soil them?”
This year, let's open the door to Hashem. Let's greet our Father properly and let Him into our hearts. After all, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity.

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