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The rabbi in this story offers a very unusual method of achieving forgiveness for one’s sins – not on Yom Kippur, but on Sukkot!

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

The story is told of a man who went to his rabbi for advice on how to repent and become a better person. He told the rabbi about all the many sins he committed.

After thinking about it for a few moments, the rabbi said that the man was required to undertake a difficult process in order to atone for all his sins. Before telling him what was required, the rabbi made the man swear that he would do exactly as told. The man agreed.

To his surprise, the rabbi then ordered him to eat a big breakfast every morning and a hearty dinner every night. He was also told to go out and purchase the most comfortable bed and linens possible.

The man, who a moment ago was worried that he would be told to fast and afflict himself, happily and eagerly agreed to follow the rabbi’s instructions. That evening, just as he was told, he went to the finest restaurant he could find and had the best meal possible. Ditto for breakfast.

Some time later, however, he started to have feelings of guilt. He began to ask himself how he could eat such elaborate meals. ”I committed terrible sins, and I am indulging in elaborate meals? This just doesn’t feel right,” he thought. And that was that.

His wife, however, reminded him of his promise to the rabbi to carry out those instructions. Realizing she was right, he forced himself to continue his routine. But with each passing day, he felt more and more guilty. Finally after several months of this guilt-ridden routine, he went back to the rabbi and told him everything. The rabbi replied that since he feels such a strong sense of guilt, it as a sign that he has successfully repented.

Truth be told, self-affliction is indeed the traditional manner to achieve forgiveness for our sins. That is why we fast on Yom Kippur. But although we sin all the time, it is simply not possible to fast that often.

Do We Deserve Such Pleasure?

The rabbi in our story offers a very unexpected method to achieve forgiveness for one’s sins, namely, to indulge rather than to afflict. But each time we treat ourselves to materialistic pleasure,  we should ask ourselves if we really deserve it. Like the man in the story, we should bear some guilt when indulging. This will indeed lead us to repentance and forgiveness on a regular basis. We should always acknowledge that our material pleasures are from God and that we are not always worthy of them. Doing so will ensure that we will always be improving ourselves.

We just completed the affliction of Yom Kippur and are about to begin the indulgence of Sukkot. On Sukkot we are required to eat elaborate meals every day of the holiday and celebrate to the best of our ability. When we celebrate Sukkot, we should remind ourselves of all the blessings God bestows upon us and arouse within ourselves a post-Yom Kippur repentance through inguldence. The repentance through affliction that we do on Yom Kippur is for one day a year, while the indulgence and materialistic type of repentance, such as Sukkot, can be done every day of the year. By doing so, we can keep that post-Yom Kippur bond with God alive all year long.

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