Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Lesson in Exchange

Here is an excerpt from Reb Sheya's book, Generation to Generation:

Before Yom Kippur, there is a traditional ritual of "kapporos," or "exchange." Essentially, the person seeking forgiveness is given to understand that in his defying Divine will by committing transgressions, he has forfeited his right to life. However, he is permitted to offer an "exchange" for his life by having a chicken slaughtered in his stead. The apparent rationale for this is that rather than the concept of capital punishment being a total abstraction, the penitent sees his penalty carried out in actuality on a lower form of life, and this should help him recognize the gravity of his transgression. The chicken is then given away to the needy.

One of the disciples of Rebbe Elimelich came to the Master before Yom Kippur, asking for a more profound understanding of the “kapporos” ritual. “I cannot help you," Rebbe Elimelich said, ”but if you will go to the inn in the nearby village, the innkeeper may be able to instruct you in the concept of ‘exchange.’

The disciple promptly left for the specified inn, and upon arriving, was taken aback by the appearance of the innkeeper. He had assumed that the Rebbe had sent him to a pious man of great learning, but what he found was a quite uncouth, ignorant person, who was serving drinks to his customers and indulging in idle gossip with them.

"Certainly this man must be one of the secret tzaddikim, masquerading as an ignorant, unrefined person," the disciple thought. Yet in watching the innkeeper's behavior, he could find no redeeming features nor any trace of acts of devotion to God.

That night, after all the customers had left and the inn was closed, the innkeeper asked his wife to bring him a huge ledger. He opened the book, and began to read off all of the transgressions he had committed during the past year. From time to time he would pause, heave a sigh of distress, shake his head in remorse, and go on with the litany. After completing the long list of transgressions, he asked his wife for a second huge ledger. From this one, he began to read all of the misfortunes that God had visited upon him during the past year. “Here is one where I bought a cask of wine, and it turned sour on me, and I lost a great deal of money. Then there was the storm that tore the roof off my house. Here a step went out from under me; and l fell and broke my arm." And so on, and so on, until he completed a long list of grievances against God.

The innkeeper then put both ledgers together and turned his eyes upward. "Listen, Ribono Shel Olam (Master of the Universe), I know l have not done right by You, but on the other hand, You have really not done right by me either. Since we are approaching the day of forgiveness, let us make an even exchange. I will forgive You, You will forgive me, and we will begin the new year with a clean slate."

The disciple returned to Rebbe Elimelich with the account of this unusual exchange. "That is the true spirit of ‘kapporos,'" the Rebbe said. "Forgiveness must be universal. Man must learn to forgive his fellow man, and man must also learn not to carry a grudge against the Almighty when misery befalls him. This simple man was most sincere. He recognized that he had committed wrongs, and knew that his sufferings had not been purposeless, but rather considered them to be punishments which he had deserved. In forgiving God for what He had done to him, he asserted his faith in Divine Providence, and that is the ultimate of man’s existence.”

Little wonder that the Baal Shem Tov held the simple folk in such high esteem. The sincerity of their faith was unequaled.

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