One may ask: “If a person has done many things that are bad and hurtful, can they ever be forgiven?” The Holy Word teaches:
“I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions, and, as a cloud, your sins: return to Me; for I have redeemed you. Seek you the L-rd while He may be found; call you upon Him while He is near. (Isaiah 44:22, 55:6)”
It is told that there was a certain man who had been wicked all his life, and he was well aware that it would be very hard for his repentance to be received in heaven. On one occasion he jokingly asked Rabbi Moshe ben Shem-Tov de Leon of blessed memory (1250-1305 c.e.) whether there was any hope for such a great sinner. The holy rabbi thought for some time and answered: “When anyone is guilty in any of these ways, he must confess in what way he has sinned” (Leviticus 5:5). The holy rabbi listened to everything the man had to say and then sadly ruled, “The only remedy and atonement for you is to accept the punishment of death as an atonement for your transgressions.”
Then the wicked man asked him: “If I do accept a sentence of death, shall I have a share in the Garden of Eden?” “Yes,” said the holy rabbi; and the wicked man pleaded: “Swear to me that my place will be near you!” Then Rabbi Moshe ben Shem-Tov de Leon swore to him that he would be near him in the Garden of Eden. When the man heard this, he took a deep breath and expressed, “I prayed to the L-rd my G-d and confessed: “O L-rd, the great and awesome G-d, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands (Daniel 9:4) hear my words that come from the depths of my heart.” The sinner with his broken heart gathered up his courage and followed him to the central shul (synagogue).
Once there, the rabbi ordered that hot lead should be brought to him. They brought the lead, and he puffed air at it with the bellows until the lead was boiling. Then he sat the wicked man on a bench and tied a cloth over his eyes and said to him: “Confess all your sins to our G-d and accept your death as a return for the sins with which you have angered your Creator all your life.” At this, the man burst into a great and exceedingly bitter gush of tears as he proclaimed, “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.” (Psalm 38:18). Round about him stood many of the community’s elders and sages. And then the rabbi said to him: “Open your mouth wide, and I shall fill it with boiling lead.” And the man opened his mouth very wide in the presence of all the people who stood round about him, in order to accept the fullness of death and so gain life in the World to Come.
At this, the said rabbi took a spoonful of warm rose honey and dropped it into his mouth and said to him: “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (Proverbs 28:13) May your many sins depart from you and your transgression be atoned!”
The man, his heart sincere and broken began to cry at once in bitter grief: “Holy rabbi! For the honor of our Maker, the King who is King above all kings, the Holy One, blessed be He slay me now indeed, so that I may not see the evil of losing my soul; for why should I live. My sins have mounted higher than my head, from the sole of my feet to the crown of my head, there is no sound place in me; so what have you done to me? Why have you deceived me?”
The holy rabbi answered him: “We are taught: “The L-rd is near to all those who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” (Psalms 145:18) For He cleanses a soul from sin, when he makes confession. (Psalms of Solomon 9:12) and “the spirit of man is the lamp of the L-rd, searching all his innermost parts.” (Proverbs 20:27). As long as the lamp of your spirit burns, there is time to make repairs. Do not dread and have no fear, for G-d has already seen all your deeds and has forgiven you. No go forth live by the Holy Words of the L-rd and sin no more.”
Thereafter the man never left Rabbi Moshe ben Shem-Tov de Leon’s house of study and spent his days in fasting and true repentance.
May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)
Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. (Joel 1:3) Please share this story with others
Listen to more stories told by the Master Storyteller, Rabbi Rachmiel Tobesman – The Treasures of the King, the Princess and the Peat Digger, Seven Jewish stories, on iTunes and Amazon or Coins, Candles and Faith, eight stories of faith on iTunes and Amazon
A King had an only son, the apple of his eye. The King wanted his son to be wise and sent his son to learn about many cultures and grow in wisdom, so he sent him to far-off countries with much silver and gold. Far away from home, the son spent all the money until he was penniless. In his sadness he decided to return to his father’s house and after much difficulty, he managed to arrive at the gate of the courtyard to his father’s palace.
The prince’s hardships had kept him away from his beloved father for a very long time. So long that he had actually forgot the language of his country and his father’s court. When he came to the gates of the palace, he was unable to identify himself to the guards. In utter hopelessness he began to cry out in a loud voice, and the King, who recognized the voice of his son, went out to him and brought him into the house, kissing him and hugging him.
We call out to Avinu Malkeinu (our Father and King) The King sends a soul down to this world in order enrich the world and to kindle a holy light. However, the soul becomes very distant and forgets everything to which it was familiar with above in the King’s court, and in the long exile it forgets even its own “language.” So it utters a simple cry to its Father in Heaven, as it is taught: “Look, their brave men cry aloud in the streets; the angels of peace weep bitterly.” (Isa. 33:7). This is prayer and the blowing of the shofar, a cry from deep within, expressing regret for the past and hope for the future. This cry elicits G-d’s mercies, and He demonstrates His abiding affection for His child and forgives him.
May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)
A wealthy man was set to embark on a lengthy journey to a distant land. He therefore packed many belongings, as well as food for the way, piling everything into his magnificent coach.
Before he set out on his journey, he called his loyal servant and explained, “I am leaving my home for an extended period of time, and I am appointing you to faithfully watch over it. I have but one request: that you take extraordinary care of my private office, as its contents are very dear to me. Please take extra-special care of it!” The servant agreed, and the wealthy man boarded his coach and set off.
When the clouds of dust from the coach settled, the servant entered the house and thought, “I wonder why my master ordered that I carefully guard his private office, there must be an item of great value hidden inside.”
The servant entered the wealthy man’s office and found a huge wooden chest sitting in the corner. The chest immediately caught his eye.
The servant opened the chest and saw a beautiful treasure consisting of silver and gold, precious gems, and pearls. But much to his surprise, the entire treasure was covered with mud.
“How odd,” the servant thought to himself. “On one hand, my master cautioned me to take special care of his precious treasure, yet on the other hand, he himself is so careless with it that he allows it to become filthy with mud.”
So it is with man. When the time will come for man to stand in judgment before the Heavenly Court, the innermost parts of his heart are examined. Were the thoughts in his heart pure, and did he serve G-d with love and honesty? For the heart is the most precious treasure contained within man’s body, and if it is revealed that his heart is covered with filth and mud, it is clue to the mundane thoughts that fill it.
How terrible will his humiliation and shame be at that moment.
Therefore, during Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur we beseech the Holy One, blessed be He “who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do” (Ps. 33:15) Create in me a pure heart, O G-d, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Ps. 51:10) — Master of the Universe, please make our hearts contain only love and awe for you and not any alien thoughts!
May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)
Chazal state (Berachos 34b), “R’ Ahahu said: In the place where ba’alei teshuvah (a true penitent) stand, tzaddikim gemurim (the purely righteous who have been untainted by sin) do not stand.”
There was a king who reigned over his entire kingdom with justice and wisdom. On one occasion, the king wished to discover his subjects’ true feelings regarding his rule, and so he disguised himself as a beggar, and went out in the streets.
As he roamed the alleyways, he was attacked by a band of cruel thieves. They wished to harm him, but one of the thieves, a spark of mercy for the beggar having flickered in his heart, fiercely defended him against his attackers, even helping him escape to safety.
The king returned to his palace and, some time later, arranged a lavish seudas hada’ah (lit., a feast of thanksgiving.), to which he invited all of the ministers and distinguished members of the kingdom. He also invited the thief who had saved him from the clutches of his partners.
The thief sat there in his simple attire and felt rather uncomfortable in the presence of the ministers who were dressed so elegantly. The ministers as well stared at the thief in utter bewilderment:
what place did this lowly individual have at the king’s feast?
The king noticed the puzzled expressions on the faces of the ministers. He therefore called over the thief and sat him down alongside him in a display of great honor. He then related to his guests what had transpired and how this thief had saved his life.
So too, it is in relation to repentance. The Torah states (Hoshea 14:2), “Return, Israel, unto Hashem your G-d.” When an individual repents and becomes a ba’al teshuvah, he draws closer to Hashem like the thief who, through saving the king, repented and in effect anointed the king over the entire land. In a similar vein, when a ba’al teshuvah overcomes his yetzer hara, he annoints Hashem King of the world as a result. The prophet Joel taught that one should “Rend your heart, not your garments and turn to the L-rd” (Joel 2:13) In this world “a king of flesh and blood insists upon having his decrees carried out. Hashem, the Holy One, blessed be He, does not act so, for He desires one’s repentance, so that He can have any excuse to annul His decrees” (Rosh haShanah 57a). It is good when one thinks about repentance and follows it with action and deed.
For the sake of one true penitent, the whole world is pardoned. (Yoma 86b)
l’Shana Tova May Everyone Be Blessed with a Good and Sweet Year
May all your Tales end with Shalom
In a certain city lived an very wealthy merchant who sold a lot of goods to the merchants living near his home town.
When it was time for the fair to be held, the merchant let everyone know that he wanted to travel to the fair so he could buy new and outstanding goods. For that reason the wealthy merchant urged all who owed him money to come and pay their debts.
Among those who owed him money was a merchant whose home had unfortunately burned down. All of his property had been consumed in the flames as well, leaving him penniless.
He was utterly distressed and ashamed at the thought of having to face the wealthy man. “How can I have the nerve to come before him empty-handed?” he asked.
“Just go to him and tell him the truth. There is nothing better than that!” advised his friends.
The merchant listened their advice and set out to see the wealthy man.
Sitting in the wealthy man’s waiting room, the poor merchant was unable to control himself and began to cry bitterly. The sound of the crying touched the wealthy man’s heart, and he asked to know why the poor man was crying. Soon after, the merchant’ s sad story was told to him.
The wealthy man felt pity for the unfortunate merchant; when the man was brought in to him he embraced him and and lovingly explained:
“Do not feel the least bit distressed. I hereby completely forgive you of your debt.” He then tore the bill of debt into shreds.
The merchant abundantly thanked the wealthy man and went on his way. The matter soon became known to the members of the community and. eventually spread to the public at large as well.
Among those who heard about it was a crook who decided to swindle the wealthy man.
He traveled to the wealthy man’s home, and upon taking a seat in the waiting room, began to wail loudly.
“What are you crying about?” shouted the wealthy man.
“I desperately need two thousand rubles,” he cried. “I beg of you, please give me the entire sum.”
“I am very sorry,” answered the wealthy man, “but I am simply unable to give you such a large amount of money.”
“But you forgave the other merchant from a debt of an equal amount,” insisted the disappointed crook.
“You fool,” said the wealthy man. “That individual owed me a great deal of money, and I knew that he did not have a penny to his name with which to repay me — what would I have gained had I not absolved his debt? Will I get my money back? That is why I forgave his debt. But as for you, I have absolutely no business with you – why should I acquiesce to giving you a sum of two thousand rubles? Should I give it to you simply because you are crying?”
The prayer, Unsaneh Tokef, speaks of many dire situations one may face during the year but concludes with the verse:
“But Repentance, Prayer and Tzedakah (charity) avert the severe decree.”
When a person repents honestly, he regrets his misdeeds, and cries to the Holy One, blessed be He that He forgive him for his sins — G-d immediately forgives him. But if a foolish individual thinks to himself, “I will sin, repent, sin again, repent once again, and even cry over my sins afterwards” — his repentance will not be accepted!
May you all be inscribed and sealed for a good year in the Book of Life
The rabbis of old taught that:
“In the place where those who return and truly repent stand, the purely righteous who have never sinned can not stand.” Beracho 34b
The Captive Prince
A king had two mighty and courageous sons. One day, the king went out to battle his enemies, and his two sons went with him as commanders in his army. Each son led his soldiers into battle. The sons fought with much strength and bravery, but the enemy was able to surround one of the sons. The battle raged on, but at the end he was taken captive by the enemy. The king’s son suffered in the enemy prison, starving and deprived, and after a full year, he finally succeeded in digging a tunnel so that he could escape from the dismal prison. The prince ran away, crossing over rivers and lakes, and trekking through forests and over mountains. After a while, he finally returned to his father’s home. How great was the happiness and joy in the king’s palace upon the prince’s return. Large celebrations were held in his honor, and the king sat him to his right and showered him with gifts. Without a doubt, this son’s joy is ten times greater than a son who had never left his father’s home.
This is the identical happiness that a person feels when he returns in complete repentance to his Father in Heaven. His joy is ten times greater than one who has never sinned, for only once a person has saved himself from sin can he truly perceive the taste of “captivity.”
L’Shana Tova May Everyone Be Blessed with a Good and Sweet Year
May all your Tales end with Shalom
It is told that the king became enraged at a certain wise physician and gave orders to his servants to put him in prison in a place that was as narrow as the grave. At his order they put chains on him and an iron yoke on his neck. At the royal command they stripped him of his clothes and dressed him in rags and tatters made of the coarsest wool. The king ordered that the doctor should receive each day some barley bread with a spoonful of salt and a pitcher of water. The king further commanded the prison guards to listen to his words and report them to him. For this doctor was very wise and said nothing that was not full of wisdom.
He stayed a long time in prison without uttering a word, keeping silent. In due course the king instructed the kinsfolk and acquaintances of that sage to visit him in prison and talk to him, for maybe he would speak to them. So they went to him and said:
“Good master, we see your distress in this prison where you are yoked and shackled at your neck and legs, and how you hunger and thirst in your nakedness and are surrounded by all this torment. Yet we are astonished at your bright face which has not changed, while you have not grown lean and you are as strong as ever!”
The doctor looked at them for a moment or two and then answered them:
“I took seven drugs with me and mixed them together and from them I have made myself a potion of which I drink a little every day. That is what has kept me strong and unchanged.” “Tell us what those drugs are,” said they, “and if anyone of us should suffer such grievous torments as these we shall make a potion of them so that he should not perish.”
“The first drug,” said he, “is faith in the Holy and Blessed One who can deliver me from many evils and troubles, and He will deliver me from these and from the king, as it says in the Book of Proverbs (21:1): ‘Streams of water and the heart of the king are in the hand of the Lord to turn whichever way He desires.’ The second drug is hope. The third drug is: My knowledge that my sin caused this and I was trapped by my transgression, and I was the cause. That being so, why should I complain? The fourth drug is: If I do not wait patiently, what shall I do instead? Is there any other choice? If the king decrees that I must die, why should I die before my time? The fifth drug is: I know that it is for my own benefit that the Holy and Blessed One causes me to suffer in order to erase my transgressions in this world so that I may enjoy life in the world to come. The sixth drug is: I rejoice in my portion and give thanks and offer praises on account of it, since I might have been in even greater distress. Though I am chained and shackled it might have been worse, for they could have beaten me with whips or other torments. If I have barley bread to eat, it would have been possible not to receive bread at all, neither of wheat nor even of barley. They give me a measure of water, but they might not have given me any water at all. Though my garb is of coarsest wool, they could have left me naked. And the seventh drug is: I know that the salvation of the Lord can come in the twinkling of an eye since He is gracious and merciful, long-suffering and full of kindness and truth to him who can repent of wrongdoing; and He, may He be blessed, will deliver me from my distress and settle with my foes.”
May you be blessed and sealed for a sweet year of success, happiness and good things