SEPTEMBER 21, 2017 – Two rabbinical students were hired to go to a small town to lead High Holy Day services for the local shul. Reb Moishe was sent to lead services, read the Torah, and deliver the sermon, and Reb Dovid was to be the cantor. They would switch roles through Rosh Hashanah, Kol Nidre, and Yom Kippur.
When they woke up on the morning of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, it was pouring rain. Being traditional observant Jews, they walked to shul. They walked in silence to save their voices and to contemplate the day that faced them.
As they walked down a muddy road, they came across a woman wearing a beautiful silk kimono. She wanted to cross the road, but the thick mud would have ruined her clothing. Without saying a word, Reb Moishe walked up to the woman, picked her up, and carried her across the muddy road, placing her safely on the other side.
Continuing in silence, the rabbinical students continued their journey in silence until they reached the shul. They conducted the services, and the congregation seemed very pleased and inspired.
After the services, the two students left the shul to begin their walk back to their host’s home. Suddenly, when they were about a block from their destination, Reb Dovid turned to Reb Moshe and asked, “Why did you pick up that woman and carry her to the other side of the road? I did not think that this is the sort of thing we were meant to do to serve our God.”
Reb Moishe replied, “Reb Dovid, I am very confused. Several hours have passed since I put that woman down. We walked quite a way; we conducted an entire Rosh Hashanah service. We walked almost all the way back to the house in which we are staying. And now you ask? Why are you still holding onto her?”
How many things from our past do we carry around? How many are good things and how many are not so good? How many inspire us and how many poison us? Do we really have to wait until Rosh Hashanah to practice introspection and to lighten our load by jettisoning those things that poison us?
We certainly need acts of kindness to take place every day and all the time. June, July, August, Rosh Hashanah … It is never too early to start working on being inspired and being people united in fulfilling acts of kindness, every day.
Move on, move forward, let go. Before we know it …
L’Shanah Tovah Tikatevu. May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year.
Rabbi Richard Perlman is the spiritual leader of Temple Ner Tamid in Peabody.