In these few days before Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we review our actions and consider the real options of Hashem. A thoughtful person should be terrified! Knowing our misdeeds, foibles, and sins, we also realize that we have no mortgage on our continual good health, successful fortune, and wonderful Nachas.
As the Navi says, “Do Teshuva until you reach the understanding of Hashem’s will” (Hoshea 2:10). If someone would abuse you, you would want more from them than a simple apology. One would expect a major turnabout in their character and attitude. This, according to Harav Hagaon Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt”l, is the basic difference between Kapara and Tahara, forgiveness and purification. Kapara is a simple correction of an error. Tahara is the complete change of character to a positive, more moral attitude (Al Hateshuva, Chapter 1).
This is what education by parents and teachers is all about. Children are inspired by the erudition, enthusiasm, and יראת שמים of their Rabbeim. They must be directed, by example, by their parents. It is almost impossible to inspire a student to pray effectively when his parents use Shul as a medium for mundane, irrelevant, and uncontrollable discussion.
I am shocked to note, as I talk to my wonderful young students at TABC, how few of them go to the Mikva before Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Hoshana Rabbah. Among my most inspiring moments with my father, zt”l, are my experiences going to the Mikva with him on every Erev Yom Tov. I took my boys, including a handicapped child in a wheelchair, to the Mikva on every Erev Rosh Hashana and Erev Yom Kippur. They did not simply feel the need for Kapara but the imperceptible necessity for Tahara as well.
אתם נצבים היום כולכם לפני ה'...טפכם...אשר בקרב מחניך, “You all stand before Hashem today…your children…who are in your camp” (Devarim 29:9-10). Fathers, you have the opportunity to show an incredible example of Teshuva before the Yamim Noraim. I hope our children will be inspired first by you and then by their teachers and Rabbeim. שנה טובה ומתוקה.