Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 127

September 16, 2022 (20 Elul 5782)

Creative Accounting!

Dear Holy Friends,

I hope this correspondence finds you doing well and in good health. We are excitedly preparing for the upcoming High Holy Days, but please join us this Shabbat for our hybrid services, which will take place in-person in our beautiful sanctuary and will be available on our regular Shabbat prayer zoom link. We would also like to thank Audrey Henik for sponsoring this week’s Shabbat Kiddush in honor of the Bat Mitzvah of her daughter, Ruby, which we celebrated last week.

With the approach of Rosh Hashanah, there’s no better time for auditing our experiences of the past year so that we can do better in the year to come. Each one of us does this in our own personal way. Yet, there is something we can all learn from Moshe the innkeeper, who employed a unique method of accounting at the end of the year!

The Baal Shem Tov’s students once asked their holy teacher how to prepare for the High Holidays. He sent them to observe the simple innkeeper, Moshe. The students took a room in his inn and waited to discover the answer to their question. At midnight, just before Rosh Hashanah, they heard Moshe rustling about in the front room. They peeked out and saw Moshe taking down two large notebooks from the shelf. He sat down on a small stool, lit a candle, and began reading from one notebook.

The notebook was a diary of all the misdeeds and transgressions the innkeeper had committed over the course of the year – the date, time and circumstance of each scrupulously noted. His “sins” were quite benign — a word of gossip one day, oversleeping the time for prayer on another, neglecting to give his daily coin to charity on a third — but by the time Moshe had read through the first few pages, his face was bathed in tears. For more than an hour Moshe read and wept, until the last page had been turned.

He then opened the second notebook. This, too, was a diary — of all the troubles and misfortunes that had befallen him during the year. On this day, Moshe was beaten by a gang of peasants. On that day, his child fell ill. Once, in the dead of winter, the family had frozen for several nights for lack of firewood. Another time, their cow had died and there was no milk until enough pennies had been saved to buy another.

When he had finished reading the second notebook, the tavernkeeper lifted his eyes heavenward and said:

“So, you see, dear Father in Heaven, I have sinned against You. Last year, I repented and promised to fulfill Your commandments, but I repeatedly succumbed to my evil inclination. But last year I also prayed and begged You for a year of health and prosperity, and I trusted in You that it would indeed be this way.

“Dear Father, today is the eve of Rosh Hashanah, when everyone forgives and is forgiven. Let us put the past behind us. I didn’t always do what was asked of me and You didn’t always do what was asked of You. I forgive you and you forgive me, and we’ll call it even.”

Of course, this story teaches us, in part, that just as we are not perfect, neither is the world around us completely perfect. Nonetheless, we stand in covenant with a caring and involved God, who cares about us and seeks our communications and praise.

As we enter into Shabbat and prepare for the New Year, may we continue to feel surrounded by the presence of God, knowing that neither we, nor He, can get it right every time!

Shabbat Shalom and wishes for a Shanah Tova U’Metukah,

Rabbi Eric Wasser, EdD, Hon.DM
201 562 5277

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