Friday, September 21, 2007

DVAR TORAH: High Holidays 5768 (Teshuva: Phoning it in)

At least since last year there has been a unique way to gain forgiveness prior to Yom Kippur, a teshuva hotline operated by Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report. The phone number has been variously given as 1 800-KLI-TZEDEK and 1-888-OOPS-JEW. I called the latter and left a message on the hotline, asking for forgiveness for missing the 11:30 PM (8:30 PM on East Coast Feed as I so often watch) show sometimes in attempts to be social; how selfish of me...

If only it were this easy, a one-ended confessional. With no offense to Mr. Colbert (whom I wish not to offend as I now have a clean slate with him). Teshuva is difficult. One really must lower and degrade themselves to ask forgiveness of another person. Ultimately it matters on our scorecard in a certain Book, but on earth it can be a serious blow to one's self-esteem and others' esteem of them to ask forgiveness of someone they may have wronged.

And yet, saying we are sorry is one of the ways the world doesn't devolve into utter primordeal chaos.

I just thought of a comparison to something which we do on the opposite side of the year, when we search for the Chometz, the bread crumbs which have filled our houses for the past year, as well as the rest of the Kashering procedures for Passover. It is an intense process that involves scalding, burning, dunking, feathering, and other strange gerunds (participles?) I could liken sin to bread crumbs. After a sin is committed/a piece of bread is eaten, they quickly spread and proliferate and at the appropriate time of the year we search and destroy, seeking out those sins and bread crumbs and resolving that in the future to be more careful to avoid offending another/to be more careful when eating bread. A note about the bread crumb thing -- apparently the Jews of medieval Europe widely avoided the Black Plague because they had clean homes and not the dirty and rat-infested homes and water-systems of the Christians, mainly because they annually fully cleaned their communities whereas for others the centuries of filth piled up. So getting on your hands and knees to clean the nooks and crannies of those damn bread crumbs or getting on your hands and knees to beg forgiveness of your fellow, are, yes, degrading, but can also save your very life.

May we be sealed in the Book of Life for a year of goodness, health, prosperity, merits, blessing and peace.

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