As we approach Yom Kippur, the question often comes to mind: What can we accomplish? We know our weaknesses, our struggles, our human frailty. What ability do we truly have to change even ourselves, or for that matter, to affect the future of Jewish history and bring it to its climactic finale?
Rabbi Avraham Chaim of Zlotchov (a student of the Maggid of Mezeritch) says that the answer to this question is hinted to in this week's Parsha. The passuk states, “for they are an upside-down generation, children who lack faith.” Rabbi Avraham Chaim explains: a person, through his prayers and repentance, has within him the ability to generate great upheaval. He can persuade Hashem to stop judging us in a harsh manner and to judge us with mercy instead. He can change his future destiny, and the destiny of all of the Jewish People. Alas, “they are children who lack faith”; we lack faith in our own abilities. We fail to recognize our intrinsic greatness.
Rav Yerucham Levovitz zt”l, the Mir Mashgiach, is quoted as saying, "Woe to a person who does not recognize his failings, but even worse is somebody who does not recognize his abilities!" We must appreciate that we can change! We can change our lives and our situations, and we can even change ourselves into better people. We can only succeed in these changes if, first and foremost, we believe that we have the ability to change.
We must also believe this with our children. All too often, we view our children in a static sense, to the extent that in our minds, their past failures define who they are. We must realize that they are “an upside-down generation!” Like ourselves, they can grow, mold themselves into new people, and transcend to higher heights. We must be willing to give them—and ourselves—the chance to grow and change.
A Gut Shabbos and a beautiful Yom Kippur,
Menachem Z. Weissmann
Head of School / Menahel