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THE ART OF DOING YOURSELF A FAVOR
There was once a contractor, a man who build homes, until he was 65. From an early age, no one knew how to build homes like he did, so a very wealthy contractor hired him from the outset, and they had a great relationship. At the age of 65, this contractor approached the project developer and said, “I am tired. I want to retire and enjoy my family. I am done. It was great working for you. I am ready to resign.”
The project developer begged him, “I have just one more house I need you to build. Just one more. Please, don’t leave, until you build one more house!” The tired contractor said, “Alright. I will do just this one last house.”
And he did, although the work was done reluctantly. He cut every corner; he did the worst job ever… just to get the job done. Just to finish on good terms with his boss. He felt bad for the person who would buy this house, “but it won’t be my problem to fix the leaks, the plumbing backups, the weak foundations, when the problems begin. I will be after my pension.”
He handed the keys over to his boss, and his boss told him to have a seat. “You have been so loyal to me, for so many years. I didn’t want to just let you go, without giving you a present. I thought to myself, the best present I can give you is a house. So, before you left, I had you build one last house, and that house will be yours! Thank you so much! I really hope you enjoy your future, with your brand new house, built in top condition, by the best builder.”
The whole way home, the builder was banging his head. What have I done! The only one I fooled was myself! I have to live now, with the leaks, the weak foundations, and all the problems, for the rest of my life!!!
As we edge ever-so-close to Yom Kippur, to the end of the Asseret Yemei Teshuva, some people feel like they don’t have much energy left. As people get closer to Neilah on Yom Kippur, they feel like they have already given it all they’ve got, and there’s nothing left to give…But it’s your house, your future, your life. You are not doing G-d a favor, or doing a favor for your parents or Rabbi. This is all about your house. Your going to have to deal with it. No one else.
Every one is looking for something to take on as a merit, as a token of improvement and change. With just a few hours left before Yom Kippur, we are at the bottom of the ninth, with two strikes. There are some things that are sure homeruns, that will for sure tip the scales. One of them is to stop talking in Shul.
The other day, I mentioned in a class what R’ Chaim Palaji brings from the Tikunei Zohar, from R’ Shimon Bar Yochai. (Tochachot Chaim Teruma; Tikun 18 page 33b) There are three books that are opened when people are praying. The book of the Tzaddikim whose prayers are answered immediately, the book of the Middle of the Road whose prayers are listened to, but are not allowed “in”, and the book of the Wicked who are pushed away from G-d, and their prayers are not answered. Who are the wicked, R’ Shimon asks? The ones who will be written in the book of the wicked are those who speak in Shul, during prayers! רשיעייא אדחיין מתמן ולא יהיב שאלתין דילהון אלא עלייהו אתמר מי בקש זאת מידכם רמס חצרי ואלין אינון רשיעייא דהוו מבזין למלכא בצלותהון דמנחן למשמע צלותא ופסקין לה על שיחה בטלה . Their prayers will not be answered, because they are destroying G-d’s Courtyards!!! They are belittling the King with their prayers!!!
I gave this class, and I got some slack. Someone complained, “Rabbi, I don’t like it when rabbis mention the punishment of things that we are doing wrong. Please be more sensitive, because you might be turning off some people.”
I felt he had a good point. After all, I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. I should be thankful that the person is coming to shul! But when I discussed his comment with my wife, she told me the story of the contractor. Baruch Hashem, I don’t have a Rabbi job, so I am not scared of getting fired. I work for G-d, and I try to help people build their houses in the next world. If I could only teach a person that by not speaking in shul, he is not only doing the whole shul a favor; most of all, he is doing himself a favor! Someone who speaks in Shul, he is removing G-d’s Presence both from the shul and from the Jewish nation, G-d forbid! (Chatam Sofer) Why should we be sensitive to a person who is the most insensitive?! The Chida says, better that this person should not come to shul! (Brought down in Kaf Hachayim 151;8) It’s the only instance mentioned in Shulchan Aruch where the halacha is to yell at the person who dares to speak during prayers, in the Chazzara. (Sh. A.’ 124)
There are so many mitzvoth where we got it all wrong. We think that when we give Tzeddaka, we are “helping” G-d, doing Him a favor. G-d doesn’t need you, or me, to help His Yeshivot, His Kollelim, His poor people, His widows, His special children, His orphans, …. He has a million and one ways, but He is giving you and me an opportunity to rip up our evil decrees. (Rosh Hashana 16b) We think we are doing G-d a favor when we are wearing Tzitzit, while every minute you wear Tzitzit, you get 613 mitzvoth. (Nedarim 25a; Sephardim need to wear wool Tzizit, even in summer, to get this amazing deal. Sh’ A, Rambam ). We think we are doing G-d a favor when we check our clothes from Shaatnez, while in truth, if you have Shaatnez in your clothing, your prayers will never be answered. (Rekanti Kedoshim) Not even on Yom Kippur. The Satan has a day off on Yom Kippur, (Yoma 20a) as hinted in his name השטן, numerical value of 364, because there is only one day of 365 days of the year that he is off. But there is one thing that gives the Satan the ability to stop a person’s prayers on Yom Kippur: if the person is wearing Shaatnez. (Yaarot Dvash, on the story why we eat fish in the meal before Yom Kippur, because of the “tailor”.) Every Shabbat we keep, G-d forgives even the severest of sins, like idolatry. Do yourself a favor and wear Tzizit, check your clothes for shaatnez, learn how to keep shabbat, don’t speak in shul, and pour your heart out on Yom Kippur in shul, until the very last prayer.
This is your life, your future; don’t take any shortcuts.