The month of Elul, the time most suited for repentance, is just a few days away. To get in the mood, here’s a little story that just happened.
When I first came to Israel, I had a friend, let’s call him Moshe, who was also exploring the world of Orthodox Judaism. But instead of having faith in the Torah, and in the Rabbis who were teaching him, he would always play a game of intellectual ping-pong, finding loopholes and doubts in every explanation he heard. I remember telling him at the time that he should flush his arrogance and ego down the toilet, along with all of his pseudo knowledge of the world, and open himself up to the wisdom of our Sages, but Moshe just couldn’t take the leap. He ended up leaving Israel, convinced that he was rejecting all of the imperfections he found in the religion and in the country, when in reality the Land was vomiting him out.
Back in America, giving up all ritual observance, the poor guy met one misfortune after the next, with his marriage, with his children, with his work. Then after almost 25 years, he began to have second thoughts, and began reading Arutz 7 and taking peeks at this blog and others. One day, not long ago, he wrote me, saying he was coming back to Israel for a short trip.
This Shabbat, he spent some time at our house, and filled me in on the sad events that had dominated his life since abandoning the Land. When he mentioned that he hadn’t put on tefillin in 25 years, I suggested he have his tefillin checked out, since tefillin should be checked every seven years, and I related some mystical, but true, stories about how a person’s behavior and transgressions affected their tefillin and caused blemishes in the letters of the parchments.
Time to check your tefillin!
I told him where he could have his tefillin checked, and yesterday morning he took them to the place I recommended. Sure enough, a word was missing in a parchment on the tefillin of the arm, making the tefillin not kosher. The missing word was in the verse, “you shouldn’t have chametz.” It blew him away.
This morning, he called me still dizzy from the revelation.
“Amazing!” he said. “It’s amazing. Chametz represents arrogance and pride, and that’s exactly what I have. I know it. My heart is full of arrogance. Until now, I’ve been closed to believe what other people were trying to teach me about Judaism and to take their advice when I was here in Israel. For the first time, I feel that Hashem is really there, looking at me, one-on-one, giving me another chance to get my act together.”
With Elul a few days away, it’s a good time for everyone to check their tefillin –especially some of our more cacophonous talkbackers who are so arrogantly sure that they are right in their asinine opinions (like it's better to live amongst the obamanations in foreign lands than to live in Israel). I guarantee you, some of you are in for real surprises!