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The Systems of the Jewish Year

What to Bring to Kol Nidrei

By Rabbi Sender Haber

It is said that when Rabbi Avraham Kalmanowitz visited the United States in the thirties he was greeted at the port by a Jewish man. The man welcomed the Rosh Yeshiva and told him proudly, “I have been living in the United States for Twenty years. I keep Kosher, I pray daily , and I’ve never worked on Shabbos”.

Rav Kalmonowitz turned to his students and quoted an obscure medrash: “Woe is to the person who comes to heaven and is able to enumerate his good deeds”.

The ability to recall all of our good deeds is not a good thing.

On the other hand, we read on Shabbos Shuva that we are to “bring stuff (devarim) with us when we return to Hashem”.

We need to approach Hashem on Yom Kippur and present our actions as both infinite and finite, We say that we tried to fix the world and to become truly righteous. We also say that there is an extra man in shul because of our role modeling or that a student got his first one hundred on a test because of our encouragement.

Unfortunately, we get so bogged down by the ‘concrete stuff’ that we lose site of the less trackable small stuff. We feel so good about our Major Accomplishments that we let everything else fall to the wayside. Everyone wants to save the world; nobody wants to help with the dishes.

I had a friend who made up his mind to wake up early and daven vasikin at the Kosel for forty consecutive days. He woke up at 4:00 am, walked to the Old City and davened. He came home a few hours later, had a quick bite to eat and cleared the rest of his schedule for a nap ... until the next morning at 4:00 am. He was impervious to criticism. He had prayed at sunrise at the Kosel and was therefore holier than most of the people rebuking him.

The fifteen minutes of fame come and go. Greatness is about quietly and consistently amping up our integrity, our Tefilla, and our Torah learning.

As we approach Yom Kippur we need to be very confident, but not overly confident.

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