Erev Yom Kippur 5777

Dear Parents,

There is probably no one who hasn’t been troubled by the oft-repeated quandary concerning teshuva and Yom Kippur. Every year we focus as hard as we can on improving ourselves, we put our heart and soul into observing Yom Kippur with passion and dedication, and we achieve a closeness to Hashem and sense of spirituality that is truly uplifting and heartwarming. As Tefilas Neilah reaches its climax, we begin to feel “I really can live my life on a higher level of commitment to Torah and mitzvos and clinging to Hashem,” only to have those dreams and yearnings dashed by the reality of the morning after Yom Kippur, when life returns to `normal’ and all of life’s pressures drag us back to `reality.’

So we question – what’s it all worth? The answer in a nutshell is – our expectations are off base. We expect we can live in a world of Eisav, surrounded by immorality, thievery , cruelty and idolatry and yet think and act like Yaakov! And besides, who says that the lives we live immersed in the alien culture around us is `reality?’ Just because we’re engulfed by it for 364 days a year, doesn’t make it `the real world!’ Perhaps how I am on Yom Kippur is the real me, and unfortunately, the real me gets suppressed the rest of the year. It seems to be this is how Hashem wants us to live our lives in this generation – subject to great forces of temptation that seem impossible to resist. What we’re able to accomplish in maintaining a Torah lifestyle, albeit somewhat short on achieving great heights of Kedusha (sanctity) and true spiritual greatness, is still an incredible achievement. Throughout the year we’re held back, we struggle with the challenges, but on Yom Kippur our true inner essence is freed from the chains and blinders of the world, and able to express itself fully. This is the real me, this is what I can accomplish when the playing field is leveled and I can focus on understanding and appreciating my Creator.

Similar misguided expectations apply to children. We have a vision of where they should be when they’re 21, but we frequently set the bar way too high along the way, and cause harm to their tender Neshomas. We seem to `get it’ with toddlers learning to walk and talk. We know what an accomplished `walker’ looks like, but we cheer and celebrate when the child totters momentarily, and manages to put his foot one inch ahead of the other on his way down to a crash landing on the floor. That move shows as much similarity to real walking as a chicken flapping its wings has to a jet plane, but we understand it’s on the road to the end result.

Somehow, as a child gets older, and certainly by the time a child enters school, expectations far exceed reality and the child begins to experience his or her parents’ and teachers’ disappointment. We truly need a reality check, and to set reasonable expectations as our children progress through their childhood. Every child has strengths and weaknesses – we need to help them develop their strengths – because that is the `real’ child. We should set the bar high – for areas in which it’s reasonable to assume that child can be successful, but we should not be making unreasonable demands in areas in which the child is not well endowed. Just as Yom Kippur may be the only taste of reality in our year, similarly we need to discover our children’s strengths, and enhance that reality which is the key to their success.

With Best Wishes for a G’mar Chasima Tova,

Rabbi Baumann


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