The following people should immediately contact a gate agent about doing teshuvah
SO the season of teshuvah isn’t exactly over, but it’s taken a shift from introspective awe to joyous reconnection.
I’ve already spent time on my own teshuvah, so now, as a public service, this column will focus on you, and I will help out by listing off the following people who should immediately contact a gate agent about doing teshuvah.
This will be a shul-centered list, because what better place to start handing out teshuvah assignments, right?
Teshuvah should be an urgent priority for anyone who belongs in one or more of the following categories:
People who did not undergo basic training in arba minim handling, and somehow end up behind you while circling the bimah for Hoshanos and poke you in the back. There should be a beginner’s lane for people still getting the hang of it.
People who teach songs while davening from the amud. No, no, no. This is not the time for that. No one is holding their arba minim during Hallel and wishing they could learn the camp alma mater that made you cry in 1997 or an incredible Modzhitzer niggun your uncle used to sing.
People who are capable of davening from the amud, but say no when the chazzan asks them… and then complain all day about the person who did go up. You had your chance, pal. Rise to the occasion or forever hold your peace.
People who have a vague idea of whom they want to include in their Mi Sheberachs, but the list is still in formation, so they linger at the bimah and crowd-fund their way through the process, asking around for names, new ideas, and helpful suggestions.
The guy who isn’t the chazzan, but davens very loud so that people think he’s the chazzan and follow his lead, continuing on when he ends Shema only to hear the real chazzan timidly say, “Hashem Elokeichem emes,” a minute later.
People who think yeshivos and shuls are the dumping grounds for stuff they don’t want or old sheimos. The bochurim in your local dormitory would take leftovers, it’s true, but they don’t want the bag of Kale-Cilantro chips from last year’s mishloach manos. Promise. And the shul might take seforim, but the coverless set of old-print Rishonim you found when you cleaned out your neighbor’s house isn’t that exciting to anyone in the otzar, and Genazym isn’t running to resell it.
Bochurim (yes, we love them, yes, they are heroes, and yes, they are the answer to everything, but…) who don’t dance during the hakafah itself and only come to life when the gabbai is trying to end it, suddenly the freedom fighters bursting with zeal for the kavod of the fourth hakafah. Buddy, where were you while the fourth hakafah was actually going on?
Okay, so here’s the truth. That was just a set-up and here’s where it gets preachy.
On Erev Yom Kippur, we were mochel everyone, even those people, and of course there is teshuvah. We nodded somberly during Tefillas Zakah, contemplating that whatever unpleasantness we might have seen in others is likely just as evident in us, to those who happen not be to us, and thus not disposed to seeing us with the same admiring eyes we use to see ourselves.
But now comes the next stage of teshuvah, which is to pull all those people together like you grasp the arba minim and make a circle and dance with them. To extend one hand to the lulav-stabber (chances are good that if he can’t control his lulav, he’ll probably dance off-beat and be ramming into your shins with every beat, so get ready) and another to the guy who parks at the edge of the shul parking lot so that every single car is trapped inside and then, when you ask him to move, waves you on like a Manhattan traffic cop and assures you there’s room to pass.
You dance with them and think that this is your family, that every person on the list and every person who should be on the list is motivated by the desire for kedushah, eager to connect in their way, and that the Ribbono shel Olam views these circles of dancing Yidden with the joy of grandparents at a family wedding reveling at the sight of a large circle of dancing eineklach.
I used to find those succah posters that have the Satmar Rebbe and Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rav Shach and Chacham Ovadiah standing in a circle beaming at each other to be a bit bizarre: These luminaries overlapped in this world, and with all the mutual respect they may have had, they represented different streams of mesorah and had different missions.
But perhaps the decoration does have a message, and it’s unique to this time of year. It’s saying that Succos is different. All year long, there are different paths, different attitudes, and different methods — but always the goal is the same, right? And now we’re celebrating that. It’s davka a Succos poster!
We left externals behind when we became malachim on Yom Kippur, and now, even though we’re coming back down to earth, we have tasted penimiyus: You and the people seated around you from Selichos until Ne’ilah have a new bond. You’re brothers and sisters in battle, begging together, pleading together, hoping together and asking together. You’ve fallen korim alongside them, seeing the soles of their shoes. You’ve listened to their children’s exaggerated whispers and maybe you even heard each other’s muffled sobs. You’ve experienced something together, and now, you will celebrate something together.
When we cried out “Hashem Hu ha’Elokim” during Ne’ilah it made no difference how they parked or how loud they davened. They were us.
Now, when we will cry out “Ein od milvado” before hakafos, it also makes no difference: They are still us, and that itself is a reason to dance!
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 931.
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