A young man was about to graduate from college. In his affluent neighborhood, it was a custom for graduates to receive a new car as a gift from their parents. For months, the young man eyed a fancy sports car, telling his wealthy father that he wanted it as his graduation gift. On his graduation day, however, his father handed him a small, wrapped present. The young man opened it up and found a Bible. Outraged that his wealthy father would give him such a gift, he left home that day, and vowed never to speak to his father again. Over the years, the young man's anger faded. But his pride kept him from reconciling. Then one day the man received a phone call.
His father had died. The man, filled with regret, returned home for the funeral. Looking through his father's things, he found the Bible his father had given him. He opened it and found a slip of paper tucked inside. A check, dated the day of his graduation, made out for the exact amount of the sports car he'd so desired.
There is something very powerful about this story and there are many lessons it can teach us - God's blessings come in unexpected packages or one should always look to the Bible for the answers they seek. Today, as we prepare for the last Shabbat of the year and soon move into the High Holiday season, I want us to consider the story through the lens of regret and reconciliation. Perhaps this story can teach us the important lesson of never hold a grudge - by the time we are ready to forgive it may be too late.
This coming Sunday evening, we will begin the sacred days - our Yamim Noraim - the Days of Awe. We will gather with our family and friends, with members of our community and our guests to undertake the process of Teshuva - of forgiveness and understanding and reconciliation. If we take this process seriously, it will be a challenge to consider what things in our lives need attention and what relationships need repair. As we think back on the past twelve months, I hope we can all remember moments of pride and accomplishment along with our personal moments of regret and disappointment.
The prayers we will read during the holidays and the experience we will have together should inspire us to consider the errors of our ways and what we need to do now to make amends. We all know from personal experience that it may be harder to give forgiveness than it may be to seek forgiveness. And for many of us, the one who is the hardest to forgive may be ourselves.
That may be the reason the Rabbis see the teshuva experience as a process, building from the days before the holidays into the High Holiday season and even beyond. It takes time and it takes attention and it takes encouragement to get this right. And that is also why we go through this experience together - with support from those around us, to answer the hard questions, to face the difficult trials and tribulations, to have the challenging conversations and to make amends now, before it is too late.
Tonight, we begin Shabbat and then on Sunday night we begin Rosh Hashanah. As we go through the final days of one year and prepare for the initial days of the new year, I hope and pray that we all have the strength and support and inner conviction to face the challenges ahead so that the new year will be as productive and exciting and as energizing as it possibly can be.
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah,
Rabbi Adam Feldman