Fourth Annual Yom Kippur Greeting

The nights have grown cool. Outside, the wind is hinting at its ability to howl. Cold rain is splashing down, its water soaking the sidewalk and creating mud where none was before. It’s warm and bright inside.

A man opens the door, a blast of cool air heralding his entrance. Heads turn, looking to see who has arrived.

Coat upturned, hat pulled down, the man is overdressed for the cold. The quality of his coat, his shoes, his hat and his gloves betray his wealth. But his air is not one of confidence. Even through the weight of his clothing, his shivers are visible. He walks up to the bar, taking a seat. A single leather encased finger reaches out from beneath the coat, gesturing. The finger taps the bar twice. The bartender responds smoothly. Moments later a drink has been poured. The finger, satisfied with its performance, withdraws.

The man sits, perhaps contemplating his drink.

A few moments pass, and the man is no longer the focus of attention. Conversation resumes, enveloping the tavern with subdued noise. The man is ignoring the conversation around him. Instead, he is muttering to himself. The bartender asks for payment and is greeted with nary a blink. He moves on. He is confident payment will come, it is growing colder outside.

A woman sits next to the man, curious. She asks him his name. He waves his arm dismissively and she leaves. He pretends he can feel his body heating itself.

Minutes pass into hours.

The man is still shivering when his head lifts and his eyes open and he suddenly realizes he is inside.

Moving his eyes from side to side he sees others, basking in the warmth, their coats hanging in the corner.

He eyes them curiously, uncertain why he’s cold while others are warm. Determined to discover the answer, he stands, turns and walks towards the pool table. Heads turn to greet him. He acknowledges them, grateful for their attention. Uncertain tendrils of warmth reach towards him.

His eyes close for a moment. Seconds later, they reopen. The man removes his hat.

His head emerges, pale white, almost the color of death.

The bartender emerges, as if on cue, from behind the bar.

The man reaches into his pocket, pulling out a five dollar bill. The bartender accepts it gratefully. The man’s drink is still untouched.

The gloves are pulled off and a splash of color comes to the man’s face. Finally, the coat is stripped from the man’s shoulders.

The coat gone, the man stands beneath a light, absorbing � and accepting � the heat that surrounds him.

Closing his eyes once again, he tips head towards the light and smiles.

****************

This year has been a long one. In many ways it has been the best year of my life. Most of you know the reasons why.

In many other ways, it has been the year of my greatest failings.

In the past, I have written third person, “theoretical” Yom Kippur greetings. Those years, I didn’t feel I had hurt anybody.

This year is different. My shortfallings have been threefold. I have dismissed others as unimportant, I have caused pain, and I have forgotten how much of what I have is due to Hashem.

I have dismissed others as unimportant. My pride has been founded not upon my own actions, but upon the debasement of people I hardly knew. Even if surrounded by and interacting with people who are completely unaware of such thoughts — such pride drains the warmth of one’s humanity. For such thoughts, and for whatever actions accompanied them, I ask forgiveness.

I have caused pain. I can physically feel the pain I have caused others. I need you to know I don’t want to hurt anybody, ever. I beg that those whom I have hurt grant me forgiveness. And I pray that they can overcome the pain I have caused.

I have forgotten Hashem’s part in my moderate success. I have instead used that success to build up my own self image. Even as I began davening more regularly over the past several months, reimmersing myself in the world of observance, I have failed to acknowledge the warmth and success that Hashem can provide. I do not ask your forgiveness for this, for this I must do Teshuvah.

I have lifted my head and opened my eyes. Your forgiveness, and my Teshuvah, will allow me to feel the warmth that surrounds me.

Im Yirtze Hashem, we can all smile in the end.

Joseph
p.s. I forgive all of you for anything you might have done to me – although nothing comes to mind.

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