Friday, September 17, 2010

A Yom Kippur Appeal (That Won’t Cost you a Penny)

A Yom Kippur Appeal (That Won’t Cost you a Penny)
By: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

Many of the kids my colleagues and I work with all year long return to shul for Yom Kippur – even though they may no longer be observant. Often, their dress and overall appearance are at odds with the standards of our community and they may be standing at the outer edge of the shul.

On their behalf, I humbly appeal to you to reach out to them warmly and welcome them back. Please don’t comment on their appearance or how long they have been away. (I don’t mean to be negative Erev Yom Kippur, but so many of the kids tell me that well-intentioned, decent people ‘kibbitz’ with them about the length of their absence or their clothing – and how deeply hurt they are by that.)

Don’t misread their discomfort as disrespect and their tentativeness as a lack of commitment. Just walk over to him/her and tell them how nice it is to see them. Invite them to sit next to you – and permit them the space to turn down your invitation. I assure you that whether or not they accept it; they will be grateful to you for your unconditional acceptance. (I ask that you take a few minutes and read the last few paragraphs of the column below which I published in Mishpacha Magazine a few years back about a similar encounter in a shul that took place thirty years ago.)

As we will soon read in the beautiful and haunting Tefilla Zakka of Rabbi Avraham Danzig before Kol Nidrei this evening, “Avinu Malkeinu, rachem aleinu k’rachem av al b’noi shemarad b’aviv ……”

“Our Father and King, have mercy on us as a father has mercy on his son who rebelled against him and left his home; [and] when he returns to his father with shame and tears, it is the nature of the father to have mercy on his son.”

In the zechus of us welcoming our wayward children back home with open arms, so too, shall Hashem envelope us in His welcoming embrace and grant us a year filled with fulfillment, joy and happiness.

Best wishes for a G’mar Chasima Tova

Yakov Horowitz

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