| Parshah |


Not allowing sins to accumulate in our souls



“Cursed be he who does not uphold the words of this Torah, to fulfill them.” (Devarim 27:26)

Rabbeinu Yonah (Shaarei Teshuvah 1:6) says there are tzaddikim who stumble in sin, but then they conquer their yetzer hara and do teshuvah immediately.

In contrast, there are those who don’t even pay attention to small sins and certainly don’t repent immediately. These are the people who are cursed in the above pasuk. (Rav Meir Rubman, Zichron Meir)

Experience has taught me that children fall into one of two groups: those who are Overly Organized (OO) and those Characterized by Chaos (CC).

Yet on the first day of school, those distinctions are blurry. They line up all ready to rumble with clean faces, neat shirttails, and knapsacks bulging with every writing implement known to mankind.

They march out to the bus with nary a milk mustache and troop into the classroom bright-eyed and eager. On that day, you’d never know that my seven-year-old’s glasses are permanently crooked, and I practically crazy-glued them straight on his ears so he’d appear well-balanced.

No, on that first day, lunchtime rolls around, and lo and behold, everyone has a sandwich, snack, and drink, and… that’s it in their lunch bags. There are no mounds of moldy unidentified objects or crumbled crackers clinging to the sides of the bag. The water bottle is full of pure water, and the snack belongs to one of the five food groups instead of the periodic table.

It’s the first day of school, and everyone wants to make a good impression. I hold my breath waiting to see how long it’s going to last this time.

It’s interesting to note that the wording in the above pasuk seems superfluous. After all, doesn’t upholding the words of Torah mean fulfilling them? Yet the pasuk is stressing that fulfillment itself isn’t enough for success. One must accept upon himself to be careful to constantly uphold the Torah, and then he’ll merit fulfilling it.

The clear lines demarcating the OOs and the CCs don’t appear overnight. Rather it’s a gradual process. It’s a forgotten sandwich that never makes it to the bin. It’s a few handouts that never get put away. It’s forgetting to refill the pencil case and then deciding it’s not really necessary because the pencil case disappeared under the penicillin-growing apple that never made it to snack time.

Many CCs really plan to be OOs. But what they don’t realize is that maintaining an OO lifestyle is not a once-a-year job. It’s a daily maintenance chore.

Even if an OO has a mental-health lazy day, he’ll rebound quickly. Conversely, the CC has a week of laziness that leads to a month. Suddenly, it’s the end of the year, and the OO accepts his report card and files it neatly into his briefcase. The CC can’t remember if he ever had a briefcase and tosses his report card into the shopping bag of papers he’s bringing home to add to the recycling bin he calls his bedroom.

Thus, the cycle continues, first day to last. It’s the Non-Parallel Lines Postulate. (I made that up.) Two lines that differ even slightly upon origin will end up miles apart. Can’t argue with ninth-grade geometry.

A true ben Torah must constantly check himself to see if he’s slipped and then immediate rectify the situation. If not, he’ll never get around to doing teshuvah. His aveiros will keep piling up, and he’ll always have excuses as to why he did them and why he can’t do teshuvah: no time, peer pressure, etc. But excuses won’t help him. The only way to remain pure is to be vigilant and do teshuvah immediately, not allowing sins to accumulate in our souls.

Today, I push thoughts of the future away. It’s no coincidence that the first day of school fell on the first day of the yemei ratzon. Today the slate is clean, and we’re full of potential. Today you wouldn’t know what I did last year, what nasty habits I’ve been carrying around deep in the bottom of my heart. Today you won’t find mounds of mutinous thoughts or sticky fingers of guilt. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I don’t know the trajectory my life will take this year. But the first bell rings.

I know it tolls for me.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 660)

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Tagged: Parsha