Just as the mirrors on our walls help us to look our best, the Yom Kippur season brings with it spiritual mirrors. Be sure to take the time to examine your personal spiritual mirror.
The Talmud tells the story of a man named Elazar who would travel the world visiting prostitutes. He once heard of a beautiful prostitute who charged a fortune for her services and decided to go visit her. In the course of their “meeting,” the woman happened to mention that she was so steeped in sin and immorality, she could never repent even if she had wanted to.
These words really moved Elazar. Afterwards, he sat down in a valley between two mountains and asked the mountains to implore God on his behalf to forgive him for his lifestyle, but they refused. He then asked the same of the moon, sun, and stars, but they, too, refused his request. He then realized that one cannot have someone or something achieve forgiveness for one’s sins; rather, one must do it himself. He then cried out in prayer…and died. At that moment a voice was heard from above that proclaimed: “Rabbi Elazar ben Dordaya will be granted heaven.”
Perhaps we can understand that his sincere repentance earned him a place in heaven, but when did he become a rabbi? What’s going on over here?
The title “Rabbi” does not necessarily mean that the holder of the title is a scholarly person. The word “rabbi” also means teacher, and that’s what Elazar became: a teacher, a role model. He makes us realize that unlike what the prostitute had said, it is NEVER too late to repent and change our ways.
We also learn from Elazar that we must approach God directly for forgiveness. We cannot send the stars or the moon to do it for us, nor can we even send another person. The relationship with God is one on one. No intermediaries. We have to take responsibility for our own mistakes.
The days leading up to Yom Kippur (and certainly Yom Kippur itself!) are the days we must look into the mirror and take responsibility. We must keep in mind the message of Rabbi Elazar, the rabbi whom everyone can learn from. It is never too late to change. It is never too late to find favor with God. Just as the mirrors on our walls help us to look our best, the Yom Kippur season brings with it spiritual mirrors. Be sure to take the time to examine your personal spiritual mirror, and if you do, you will certainly come out looking your spiritual best!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel