Yom Kippur: Day of I'm Sorry, Day of Unconditional Acceptance, Day of Sensitivity

Yom Kippur 2018 - Three Sermons

Day of I'm Sorry, Day of Unconditional Acceptance, Day of Sensitivity

Sermon 1 - Day of I’m Sorry

Based on Likutei Sichos vol. 4 page 1150 note 8& Derech mitzvosecha מצות וידוי ותשובה 

Joke: Spotted Owl

Next case, Mr. John Smith vs. State of California.  The judge looks at the case and turns to Mr. Smith.  “Mr. Smith, you are accused of hunting the endangered spotted owl.  What do you have to say for yourself?”
“Guilty, with an explanation your honor.”
“Let me hear” says the judge.
“Well you see your honor, I was on a camping trip and lost my way.  I was wondering about the forest for two days without anything to eat.  I was beginning to fear for my life, took my rifle, and shot the first thing I could see.”
“Case dismissed”, says the judge.  “Let it be known that this court combines mercy with justice.”
As the court begins to empty, the judge calls over Mr. Smith.
“Mr. Smith,” “As an avid hunter I’ve always been curious what a spotted owl tastes like.  Since it’s an endangered species, It’ll always be a mystery for me.  Can you please indulge my curiosity and try to describe it?”
“Well your honor,” says Mr. Smith.  “If I had to describe it, I would say that it tastes something like a combination of the California Condor and the Bald Eagle.”

Question:  Why does “I’m sorry” work?

My dear friends.  Yom Kippur is the day to say I’m sorry.  I’m sorry to my wife, I’m sorry to my children, I’m sorry to my friends.  It’s time that we say I’m sorry to G-d.
But why does “I’m sorry” work?  The first prerequisite for “I’m sorry” to work is that whatever we did to harm someone else has to stop.

Optional Story:  Monk Carrying the woman

A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point,
they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to
cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting
to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other

The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to
touch a woman.

Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her
across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on his

The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After rejoining
his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between

Two more hours passed, then three, finally the younger monk could contain
himself any longer, and blurted out “As monks, we are not permitted a
woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the
other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”

It must be that we have to leave the past on the other side of the river.

It must by that we do leave last year on the other side of the river.  But how does Teshuva really work?  Just because I came to synagogue and paid off the rabbi, can I continue life as usual?  There are some religions that will do that for you, but not here.  On the flip side, what does Teshuva really accomplish?  Do I get a green light to continue?  Am I washing away sins?  Or am I actually fixing the damage done by them? 
Let’s examine this a little bit closer:

Story: “It’s over, but it’s not really over”

A woman was once telling me about a fidelity episode with her husband.  As you can imagine, there were many angles and it was a complicated situation.  Just as the conversation was ending, she said, “well, it’s over, but it’s not really over.  We’ve moved on, but we haven’t really moved on.”

At first, I wondered, what is she talking about.  Either it’s over, or it’s not over.  What did she mean that it’s over but it’s not really over?  Is her husband still cheating on her or not?  If he’s not, is there anything he could do to really take away the damage to put the issue to rest?

Two Levels of Teshuva

I’d like to suggest that there may be two stages.  The first is the bare minimum that will allow us to continue our relationship, even though the damage was already done. That’s the first “it’s over”.  Then there’s a solution that can transform us back into the turtle doves we were under the chuppah and repair the damage done.  That is the real “it’s over.”

1.       The bare minimum is a strong resolution to never go back there.  If I knew that it would never happen again, I would have the motivation to stay in the relationship and give it another shot.  If you can’t give up hunting the bald eagles though, it’s a nonstarter.  But even if you can manage to come back all the way and never turn back to the dark path, the damage was still done.  How do we fix that?
2.       What would take me back to the turtle dove days and fix whatever damage was done is knowing that the thought of what used to cause pleasure would become a source of pain.  If I knew that my spouse was pained just thinking about cheating on me, and that the very thing that used to cause pleasure is now embarrassment and regret, that would heal the wound.

You see, until that pleasure of sin is taken away, I’ll never really get over it.  It sounds a bit sadistic, that I need you to experience pain to heal, but that’s how G-d made us.  Knowing that you can get pleasure from the very thing that gives me pain, doesn’t let me truly get over it until it’s reversed. 

In summary:  I’ll get pleasure & closure from your pain, which reverses the pleasure you got from my pain.

In other words, to completely mend a wound, you’ve gotta become a new person!

Yes, what that means is that it’ll never really be over until you become a new person!  You all know that this is true.  You could only truly forgive the people that hurt you in your life if they became new people! 

The Bonus

I can see that the older people are nodding their heads in agreement with what I’m saying.  However, the younger folks look a bit puzzled.  They may be thinking, “Wow, I pity all those people that made such terrible mistakes in their life.  Nebach, they have to learn to forgive and move on.  I’m sure that I’ll be different and won’t make those mistakes.”

The truth though is that you aren’t really married until you make it through the rough times and fix them.  To the point that I pity the people that never had any hard times to work through!

They say to not take marriage advice from someone married less than 10 years.  Why?  Probably because by that time, the worst of both of them will have already come out and the marriage still withstood the test of time.

If it weren’t for idol worship, we’d only have half a Torah!

The Talmud actually teaches that if it weren’t for idol worship, the Torah would be only half the size!  We would only have had one set of tablets (the first were broken at the sin of the golden calf) and the entire book of Prophets is all about prophets admonishing us for worshipping foreign gods.  Almost all of the 24 books of Prophets are a rerun of the same story:  The Jews started to worship idols, bad things started to happen, the prophet admonishes them and sets them on the right path again, and then they fall back into idol worship again.  Literally, there would be hardly anything left without mistakes!

Just as a bones rarely break in the same place, the bond that evolves from mending mistakes to our loved ones is an unbreakable bond that will make our relationships deeper than we could have ever imagined.

Conclusion:  Brocha

I’d like to finish by giving all of us a blessing that all of our relationships blossom this year.  Our relationships with our spouses.  Our relationships with our children.  And yes, our relationship with Hashem.  G-d is our Father in Heaven, and he does want us to have a real relationship with Him.

Truly regretting mistakes takes sensitivity

My blessing for all of us is that all of our relationships should blossom into beautiful, meaningful and fulfilling relationships.  All of the mistakes that we’ve made, we should have the self-awareness to leave behind, the courage to say I’m sorry and the sensitivity to actually feel the pain of those that we’ve hurt to the extent that it’s our pain.  And then, our spouses, children & Hashem will truly forgive us!

Think that you don’t have the sensitivity within to feel the pain of Hashem and our loved ones for our mistakes?  We’ll talk about that before Neila. 
Gut Yontef

Sermon 2 - Day of Unconditional Acceptance

Based on Likutei Sichos Vol 4 Yom Kippur

Joke: Dr. Jack Cohen

A women was pushing a stroller down the street, when a friendly neighbor approaches, “Oh, how cute.  How old are they?”  The Jewish mother looks at her and says, “The doctor is two and the lawyer is 4.”

Question:  When they grow up

But what happens 25 years later when Jack decides that he wants to be a musician and Harry wants to be an artist?!  Will their mother still accept them?

Point:  Yom Kippur is the day of Unconditional Acceptance

My friends, Yom Kippur is that day of unconditional acceptance.  G-d put us in this world, and it’s a grind.  He has some expectations, and tells us how to live our lives as doctors and lawyers to fulfill our mission as best we can.  We try our best, but we’re human.  We make mistakes.  Some mistakes are between us and G-d.  Some of our mistakes are between us and other people, especially family.
The only difference is that there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a musician or an artist.  There is something wrong with hurting people or for that matter, G-d.

Summary of Last night’s talk:

Last night we spoke about Teshuva.  When we wrong someone and want to fix it, the first step is making a firm commitment not to go there again.  To truly fix the damage though, the one asking forgiveness has to reach a new state of mind and become a new person.  Keeping my commitment not to violate you again is a good start, but until the thought of violating makes me nauseous, the person who was wronged will never feel total closure.

In summary, we all have expectations of each other.  We have expectations from our parents, our children and our spouses.  If everything would go as planned and we always met expectations, life would be simple (but sadly shallow).

This explains why a Baal Teshuva is Greater than a Tzaddik

This is why the Talmud teaches that a Tzaddik (someone who never made mistakes) cannot reach the same level as a Baal Teshuva (someone that made a mistake and then fixed it).

In the course of life, we let each other down, and don’t meet the expectations of those who are counting on us.  If we seize the moment and own up, we make strong resolutions, keep them and our relationships become ever so much deeper.

That was all last night.  Today, we are going to talk about something deeper than a relationship that never had strained times.  We’re going to talk about something even deeper and more meaningful than a mended relationship.  Today we are going to talk about the relationship that isn’t yet mended.
Unconditional acceptance is so deep that even violations can’t shake it.

Yom Kippur- Day of Atonement

Many people think of Yom Kippur as the “Day of Repentance”, because they come to synagogue, read a bunch of times that they are sorry and bang their chest a few times.

The truth though is that Yom Kippur is the “Day of Atonement.”

The difference between repentance and atonement is:  Repentance is me saying “I’m sorry”.  Atonement is you saying, “I forgive you.”

The reason why Hashem says, “I forgive you”, the day of atonement, is because it is the day of unconditional acceptance.

Love = Unconditional Acceptance

What is love?

Some people think it’s attraction and some might argue that it’s hormones or infatuation.
A few years after being married, one of my friends told me that he was reading a book about how love is really unconditional acceptance.  It took me years to understand what this really means.

The reason why I had such a hard time understanding it is because everyone has boundaries, and all relationships seem to have expectations.  G-d tells us he expects us to live our lives according to Torah.  Parents expect their children to get good grades.  Husbands expect their wives to keep their stomachs full.  Every relationship is “conditional” and there are so many things that I won’t accept.

What happens when they don’t meet our expectations?  Then where do we go?  If my spouse is doing things that they knows they shouldn’t be doing, why should I accept him/her?  If my child has the talent but is just being lazy and flunking school, why should I accept them?

You’ll probably answer that you can accept someone without accepting what they do.
But what does that mean?  How can I accept you without accepting what you do? 

Example: Mr. Rogers, “I like you just the way you are”

Mr. Rogers (who you all know I’m a big fan of) tells the children in almost every episode, “I like you just the way you are”.

I started telling that to my children, but feelings of fright enter my heart.  I thought to myself, “What if they decide to not be religious?  What if they decide to steal?  What if they decide to hurt people?”  Will I still like them just the way they are?

If I like them the way they are without any conditions, I may regret saying that later, if I don’t like what they do!

Answer: Achievement is outcome of acceptance, not cause

What I’m going to say now is something that you’ll have to think about.  If you just hear the words without sitting on them and pondering them, you’ll probably say I’m flat out wrong.

Achievement is the outcome of acceptance, not the cause of it

What you answered me before was correct!  You can accept someone without accepting their behavior!  You can like someone just the way that they are without accepting them.

A fellow called me up yesterday and asked where services will be.  He said, “I have enough sins to apologize for, so I need to go pray”.

Most of us know what our mistakes are.  We know where we’ve gone wrong.  If we don’t, then our problem is much bigger than the mistakes themselves.

Stories about Murderers

Let’s take this to an extreme.  In his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie writes numerous stories about serial killers, who after being caught and interviewed in jail, honestly thought they were freedom fighters that couldn’t hurt a fly!

I’ve been to jail to visit inmates.  I’ve met these people.  They are people just like you and me.  They have done terrible things.  They may have to be there for the rest of their lives.

However, these same murderers, and robbers and villains have a beautiful human side hidden underneath their sinister actions.

These are people who have been waiting years for someone to say, “I like you the way you are!”  When someone can look inside and see that beautiful human, hidden underneath, that itself empowers them to control themselves and change their ways.


You may be hearing what I’m saying, thinking to yourself, “Rabbi, you’re out of your mind.  These people are the worst of society and no amount of positive thinking will revive the victims and change their ways!”

However, I ask you the question, “What about your mistakes?  How do you treat your family? What would help you become a better person?  Are you waiting for someone to accept you the way you are?

Who gets to see the worst of you?

I once heard of an exercise from a corporate management coach.  He helps big CEO’s do their job better and motivate the people they oversee to bring out the best in them.  He asks them, “who gets to see the best of you, and who gets to see the worst of you?”  Almost always, the worst is seen by family.

So, we’re struggling to navigate this world as best we can.  We succeed and we fail.  Some of our failures are by accident, some are under pressure, and some of them, well, we’re just not ready to do!  Some of us aren’t ready to put family first and give them undivided attention.  Sure we know it’s best, but work is so important!  Because I love my family so much, I have to work to provide for them.  In the meantime, I come back exhausted, have a short fuse and never seem to be present with them. 

Unconditionally Accepting the Murderer

You know that harping on your shortcomings won’t make you a better person.  What you really want in life is someone that appreciates you for who you are, or in Mr. Rogers’ words, “I like you just the way you are.”  The murderer also wants someone who appreciates him for who he really is.  He knows that there’s someone very special underneath the mask of who everyone knows him to be.

The worse a person’s actions, the deeper you have to dig

I’m not saying that it’s easy to find the part of axe murderer that you “like just the way they are.”  You have to dig deeper than their actions, deeper than giving or accepting an apology.  You have to find that beautiful human soul buried beneath layers, and layers, and layers of dysfunction and evil!
Finding this beautiful human soul is something that takes so much work that you might want to start with your family.  Your spouse, your children and your parents.  Once you have that you might move on to friends and other people that you value your relationship with.

If you can master it with the important people in your life and you really want to reach a new level, then try finding it in the axe murderer. 

The axe murderer is an extreme example, and the soul is still there, but you don’t have to start with them.

Example from Anne Frank

In Anne Franks diary, you get a window into the life of a girl that if she hadn’t been killed, would have just been a regular kid.  In an interview, which you can find on YouTube under Otto Frank, he talks about how he knew that Anne had the diary.  He knew that she wrote in it.  She made him promise, however, that he wouldn’t read it, so he didn’t.  Until he found out that she died. 
Upon reading this journal, he was shocked.  He saw a totally different person that the Anne that he knew, even though he had a good relationship with her!  She was so self-aware and self-critical about things that everyone knew, but Anne seemed to be completely unaware of.
Even though she made fun of things and seemed very light headed, sometimes frivolous and not serious, the diary proved that she had a very deep, introspective, and self-aware and critical side to her.

He may be too embarrassed to say it, but even the axe murderer is terribly ashamed of his evil actions.  He hates looking at that guy in the mirror, just like you are embarrassed of how your wronged other people.

However, just like you’ll stop accepting your sins once someone accepts you for who you are, this is the only hope for the murderer.

Day of Unconditional acceptance

Yom Kippur is that day of unconditional acceptance.  It is a day for us to unconditionally accept our spouses.  It is a day to unconditionally accept our children.  It is a day to unconditionally accept our parents. 

It is also the day that G-d unconditionally accepts us.  Yom Kippur is the day of atonement.  G-d washes away our sins, not because we always do the right thing, not because we even apologize and commit to never make mistakes again, and not even because we are disgusted by what we did.
G-d gives us atonement because He unconditionally accepts us.  G-d likes us just the way we are, and this empowers us to achieve, make the resolutions, yes change our ways, and… unconditionally accept those that need it most, including G-d Himself.

Sermon 3 - Day of Sensitivity

Model off tone communication

[In off tone, loud and unregulated voice say] Thank you everyone for coming.  Right now we’re about to start Neila which is the holiest prayer of the entire year!

[Back to normal tone] Hey, wait one second.  Did you hear that my tone was completely off?  Did my voice sound like I was completely out of touch with the crowd and that I shouldn’t even be a rabbi?
If that’s what was going through your mind, you’re spot on, because we’re about to talk about Yom Kippur as the “Day of Sensitivity”.

Firstly, however, I’d like to review what we’ve spoke about over the last 24 hours.

Summary of past two sermons

Last night we spoke about Yom Kippur being “The Day of I’m Sorry”.  When we wrong someone and want to fix it, the first step is making a firm commitment not to go there again.  To truly fix the damage though, the one asking forgiveness has to reach a new state of mind and become a new person.  The first step of “I’m sorry” is, “Never again”.  Keeping my commitment not to violate you again is a good start, but until I’m so sorry that the mere thought of violating is nauseating, the person who was wronged will never feel total closure.  That is what the real, I’m sorry is.

That was last night.  Earlier today, we spoke about something deeper than a relationship that never had strained times.  We spoke about something even deeper and more meaningful than a mended relationship.  We spoke about the not yet mended relationship.  The word for that is:  Unconditional acceptance.  Unconditional acceptance is so deep that even violations can’t shake it.

It’s like three kinds of fires

These three layers that we uncover through not making mistakes, fixing mistakes, and unconditional acceptance are like three kinds of fires.  There is a flame.  Flames are flashy, but they look hotter than they are.  You can even pass your hand through a flame without burning yourself.  Flames are as deep as relationships that never had any problems.  They are like newlyweds:  Full of infatuation and hormones, but shallow in real depth.

Then there is a coal.  Coals might not look hot, but they are much hotter and last longer than flames.  Hot coals are like a relationship after being mended.  Hot coals are a husband and wife that have weathered the rough times, made mistakes and found that their connection is deeper than getting everything right the first time.  However, take a coal and throw it in the water.  You’ll hear a quick hiss, and then it’s out, as if it was never on.  Even “I’m sorry” only goes so far.  It only works so many times.

Then there is a flint stone.  Flint stones have fire in them too.  It is a fire that is so hot, and so deep, that even sitting under water for a hundred years can’t extinguish it.  That is the ultimate model for a relationship.  It was what guarantees a happy, long lasting and true relationship. The flint stone represents Unconditional acceptance.  If I can come to unconditionally accept my children, my spouse, my parents, and those people that are truly close to me, then I’m on the road for a real special relationship.

Woman says, I couldn’t be closer to my mother

A couple months ago, I buried a woman and have been helping the family through grieving.  The couple was married for almost 70 years, and the husband was really struggling.  While speaking with the daughter, she told me about how much she loves her father.
“We couldn’t be closer,” she says to me.  “We talk almost every day.”
“But,” she continues.
“I really don’t know what to say to my father.  My mother was so difficult, and he’s still struggling so much.  I wish I knew what to say to him, but we never really talked about feelings.  We talk almost every day, but it’s all about business and what we’re doing.  I don’t know how to help him through this hard time.  I don’t know what to say.”

This is not a one-time story

My dear friends.  This episode didn’t just happen once.  Almost every time that I help people through grief, I hear the same thing over and over again.
Almost every time that I help people through end of life issues, I get to see how dysfunctional almost every family is.

The solution is sensitivity

Please, listen to me.  The answer to all of this is sensitivity.  Sensitivity is the answer to this daughter and her father.  Sensitivity is vital to make a meaningful “I’m sorry”.  Sensitivity is crucial to accept your loved ones unconditionally.

Yom Kippur- A day of five souls & five prayers

I know that this crowd is not necessarily so traditional.  I know that you aren’t too in to the Kabbalah yet, but I’d like to share something with you from the Kabbalah.

The Kabbalah teaches that each Jew has five souls.  They are called, נפש-רוח-נשמה-חיה-יחידה.  These five souls are embedded in us, but on a regular day, we only are in touch with the outer three נפש-רוח-נשמה-.

This is why Kabbalisticly, we pray three times a day, in the morning, afternoon, and evening.  Because we are only in touch with the bottom three souls.

On Shabbos, first of the month and Jewish holidays, we pray four prayers.  Kabbalisticly this is because we are connected with the חיה soul.

There is only one day a year that we pray five prayers.  The fifth prayer is called Neila, and we are about to pray it now.  Kabbalisticly, the reason for this fifth prayer is because on this one day a year, Yom Kippur, we can all feel the יחידה. 

יחידה is the soul of Sensitivity

The reason why this is the day of five prayers and five souls, is because it is the day of sensitivity.  It is the one day a year that we are sensitive enough to feel that deepest part of our soul.  It is the one day a year that we feel our יחידה.  The יחידה is where unconditional acceptance comes from.  יחידה is where atonement comes from. 

If Yom Kippur is only one day, what’s the point?

However, if I’m telling you that Yom Kippur is one day a year that we are sensitive to this soul, what’s the point.  Yom Kippur is that one day when even the most unreligious Jews feel the need to come out of the woodwork.  I know that you know what I mean.

A Possible Answer- To Be Sensitive the Rest of the Year Is Our Work

One possible answer that I thought of, is that Hashem makes us sensitive one day a year.  If we want to retain that level of sensitivity it has to be practiced and rehearsed. 
If you didn’t hear that my tone was off, maybe you aren’t sensitive enough.  Maybe you talk like that too sometimes.

Story of Natanya Going to NY

Every year, Natanya goes to NY for a convention.  For the past few years, she’s been staying at the same house.  This past year, while she was gone, we spoke on the phone and I asked her about her convention.  She responded by telling me that in quantity it wasn’t as good, but in quality it was better.  She gave an example of Shabbos.  She spent Shabbos at the same house as last year, but this year wasn’t as enjoyable as last year.  She told me that she couldn’t believe how sarcastic the family was amongst themselves.  What she had an even harder time understanding is that she was at the same house, with the same exact people the year before and didn’t notice anything.

This past Year, Activities Have Been Down Because We’ve Been Working on Sensitivity

This past year, Natanya and I have been learning a tremendous amount about relationships, communication and mental health.  We’ve learned that in order to cope with the hardships of childhood and life, we desensitized ourselves.  Becoming desensitized has some benefits.  You aren’t as offended as easily, you can cope with difficult people and it’s a skill that that is great for the sales business, especially being a rabbi. 

There’s a downside of being desensitized though, namely that it’s horrible for relationships.  It’s horrible for raising children, it’s horrible for a spousal relationship, and it makes it hard to connect to people on a deep level.

Answer why she didn’t notice sarcasm the year before

The only explanation that Natanya could come up with for why this year she found the family to be so sarcastic is because she was sensitized again!  They were the exact same people last year.  It doesn’t make sense that they became so sarcastic in one year.  She was so desensitized, that she didn’t even realize how bad it was the year before!

You may just think it’s her, but when I went to NY a few months later for my convention, I decided to spend time at my friends homes and observe their families.  It was painful.  Yes, painful is the word.

Examples of toxic communication styles.

I got to see how sarcastic, transactional, out of touch, disrespectful, negative and volatile so many of my friends are. 

Please let me explain some of these terms:
  •         Sarcasm- when people say something that they don’t mean seriously for the sole purpose of making someone feel bad or stupid, that’s called sarcastic.
  •         Transactional- When people say, “I love you, bye” before hanging up the phone, or communicate with family members in a businesslike way, like, “okay kids, it’s time to go.  Please hurry up and get in the car quick”, or “okay, dinners on the table,” that is transactional.  The message is being communicated but without any feeling.
  •         Out of touch- When people ask rhetorical questions or questions that show how clueless they are, this is out of touch.  Things like, “so, how was school today?” show that you can’t read your child’s body language.   If you are sensitive, you should know how their day was. 
  •         Disrespectful- When people talk down to, or at, instead of to family members, that shows disrespect.  If you think of conversation as a ping pong game, where the fun is in the back and forth, not in winning, you’re on the way to talking respectfully.  There’s no fun in playing with someone that serves in a way that you’ll miss it.  In conversation, keep track of how people respond to what you say.
  •         Volatile- As a parent of five children, I get overwhelmed, and children can be a handful.  As I’ve become more sensitive, I’ve realized how unpredictable I can be.  If I’m calm, I respond one way, and if I’m overwhelmed, I respond a different way.  I’ve learned from doctors, that this type of parenting is actually the cause of anxiety in children that eventually grow up to be adults.
  •         Optimism- Are you always pulling up your family and assuring them that you believe in their capabilities, or do you pull them down?
  •        Tone of voice- So many people don’t even realize that when they talk that actually sound angry.  If you grew up with someone like that, you probably desensitized yourself to it and may not even be aware that you sound the same way.

Story-Father Gave Son a Bloody Nose

A few weeks ago, I was at an event for a family of our supporters.  They had a major lifecycle event in the family, and at the dinner, in the course of conversation, the father told the story in jest of how he gave his son a bloody nose while “disciplining” him.  And he thought it was funny!

Can you believe this?  A father wasn’t embarrassed to say this publicly?  It’s bad enough that he doesn’t feel the sensitivity to treat his son with dignity, but to brag about it in a public forum?!

The way to become more sensitive:  You have to really want it

In my experience, the way to accomplish anything is to really want it.  The way to become more sensitive, is to really, really want it.  If you really want to become sensitive, and you’re willing to give things up for it, especially your own pride, you can do it.

A suggestion to help move it along is having a culture of truth in your family.  If family members know that you really want to hear when you’ve said something off, when you sound angry or out of touch, receiving their feedback is the only way.

Takeaway from This Yom Kippur

If there’s one thing that I hope we can all take away from this Yom Kippur, it’s sensitivity.  The “I’m sorry” from last night’s sermon will only do the trick if we can actually feel the “I’m sorry”.  The “unconditional acceptance” from this morning will only work if we’re sensitive enough to know who we’re accepting.

The fifth soul, the flint stone soul, that has been with us for the past 24 hours, is about to go back under the water for another year.  The only way that it will be able to help us mend our relationships, is if we have a super-strong desire, to become sensitive again, and allow this most delicate soul, to impact us for the whole year.

Having Rachmonus on Hashem

One last thought.  As Natanya reviewed my first two sermons, she pointed out that I’ve almost exclusively been talking about family relationships and haven’t been talking about how G-d is atoning us for our sins to Him!

The truth of the matter is, that the principles are the same, and yes, G-d has that sensitivity for us.  He forgives us because He accepts us unconditionally.  This is what should motivate us to achieve and deepen our relationship with Him!

You know, the world at large is on the road to becoming more sensitive.  Over the past few thousand years, the world has become so much more tolerant.  Tolerant enough? Absolutely not, and yes, some evils are even worse, especially on the individual level.  However, the world at large is getting better.  Knowledge has never been so accessible.  There has never been a time in history with so little war.  There have never been so many organizations out there to help people.  The world has never been so sensitive to make sure that all buildings are inclusive and can accommodate people with special needs.

The final frontier is that the world will finally become sensitive to G-d.  Right now, it’s not.  If I talk about G-d, many people will just zone out, because “is G-d really real?”.  If I’m not sure if I even know that He’s here, how could I be sensitive to Him and care about His feelings?  Yes, G-d has feelings too!

If I talk about children, parents or spouses, everyone can agree with me that we need to become more sensitive and improve our relationships.  If I were to talk about G-d, however, people could start rolling their eyes.

My final blessing for all of us, is that the most important relationship that we could have, the relationship that gives us the drive, the strength and the courage to do the hard work and improve all of our other relationships, should blossom.  Yes, I mean that we should be sensitive to the creator of the universe and mend our relationship with Him, to the point that it’ll be more meaningful than any other relationship that we have.

In these last few moments of golus, before Moshiach comes, the most wonderful thing we could do, is sensitize ourselves and work on developing a meaningful, deep and accept unconditionally, the One who created the world, Hashem our G-d.


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