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The First Blemish

Life is a classroom.

I saw a cute 5-year old with curly red payis (sidelocks) in synagogue on the first day of Succoth that was wearing a brand new pair of shoes. When his peckal'e (his little bag of goodies) was depleted, he ran outside to play with the other little tikes. A few minutes later, he ran back in shul, wailing to his daddy; the little guy's spanking new patent leather holiday-and-Shabbat shoes had just received their first nasty scoff. A pat on the head and a piece of toffee calmed him down, and within a minute, he returned to the action outside. By the end of services, the little fellow's new shoes were not only scoffed, but covered with dust and many more blemishes that didn't seem to bother him any more.

There's a profound lesson here: Rav Huna teaches (Talmud, tractate Yoma, 86b) that once a person commits a misdeed for the second time, then it becomes permissible in his or her own mind.

The soul is like a lily-white garment. A misdeed, such as a lie, a dishonest dealing, or an act of adultery blemishes the soul seriously. Human nature is to become extremely ashamed of the first blemish, but once the garment (or soul) is soiled and blemished, then anything goes.

Repeated offenders, such as gossips and those who short-change their employees, have 101 reasons to justify their actions. Repeated misdeeds have a way of desensitizing us, for the cleaner a soul is, the higher its sensitivity.

The soul suffers unfathomable humiliation from each blemish.

A good detergent will clean a garment; Teshuva will clean a soul.

Today is Hoshana Raba; tonight in Israel is Simchat Torah (Shmini Atzeret outside of Israel, and Simchat Torah abroad is on Thursday night and Friday). Now's the time when the judgments and verdicts of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are not only finally signed and sealed, but delivered too. In the next 48 hours, one can certainly do Teshuva that's sufficient to sweeten the most severe judgments. The gates of Heaven are wide open right now - this is a wonderful time for the type of joyous teshuva with love that will completely cleanse our souls. Let's not squander these valuable hours. Dancing with all our hearts not only cleans our pores, but it cleans our souls. Have a wonderful Yom Tov!


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This is so true and unfortunately, I know from experience. Once we do teshuva and decide to stop continually performing the blemish, then we must believe HaShem has forgiven us. This is hard for me to do and I find that even if it's been years since the blemish, the guilt I have drives me to continually repent for it. Thank you for this important reminder.

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