Shana Tova: Love, not Fear



So, tonight, we stand before The King. We beseech our Tatty in Shamayim to forgive us, to inscribe and to seal us in the Book of Life. We plead. We ask. We cry.
The good news is that we are loved. The bad news is that too often we approach our Creator from fear, rather than from fact. Older Dude zeroed in on this idea at my family’s Shabbot table. He explained that if a kid spills chocolate milk, he can approach his dad through fear, shaming himself and pointing out his erroneous choice. Likely, his father will forgive him. After all, in apologizing, the kid identified the behavior, said “sorry,” and offered to clean up the mess, i.e. he made rudimentary teshuva.
On the other hand, the child could approach his parent through love. He could point out how sad spilled milk makes his father feel, could take care of the mess, and then could extend himself, could do something more that wiping away evidence of his mistake, to reinforce his connection with his parent. That “extra” might be, demographics depending, snuggling with his dad, rubbing his dad’s back, or helping his dad take out the trash. Likely, his father will forgive him. After all, in apologizing, the kid identified the behavior, said “sorry,” and offered to clean up the mess, i.e. he made teshuva. Better, though, in this version of the scenario, the kid reminded himself and his dad that his mistake was only a small part of the much larger fabric of their relationship.
Whereas it is not our place to demand of G-d that we ought to be forgiven (though we can ask for as much), it is our place, and only ours, to remind Him we have and hope to continue to maintain a relationship based on more than on our making errors and on Him forgiving them. Love breeds love. If we have approach The King out of affection, we will find it relatively easy to continue to do so.
Fortunately, even if we have approached The King out of fear, we can change that aspect of our relationship to Him. There are no parents, of which I am aware, on Earth, or in heaven, who don’t want their kids to relate to them out of love rather than out of obligation. Kavod is required, but devotion is so much nicer.
While true adoration must grow organically from our hearts, there are practical steps we can take to nurture this feeling. Am Yisrael come to (better) love Hashem because of, not despite the fact that we have invested so much of ourselves in our relationship to The Boss.
Consider the words of Aryeh Varon, speaking of Avodat Elul, the work of the month of Elul, who, in turn, refers to a notion expressed by HaRav Chaim Friedlander, z''tzal that “once a person stumbles on a mitzvah he has to think of preventive methods in order not to transgress [it] again.” The mom who has become accustomed to receiving pictures made in school, with which she regularly adorns her refrigerator door, and the dad who has become accustomed to being greeted, when returning from learning or from work, by lots of messy hands and kisses, misses those signs of fondness when they are absent.
So, too, does HaKadosh Baruchu miss the mitzvot with which we connect to Him when we become inconsistent in our performance of them. Unlike the angels, we were given free will; our affections, like that of small children, can’t be anything but authentic. Humans are not automatons, BH.
In balance, our heavenly father is not a bellhop to be summarily directed by dint of our performing loving kindnesses. It is the case that sweetness (a theme of the Yomim Noraim) is easier to embrace that is bitterness. A bonus is that our genuine demonstrations of ardor are often handsomely rewarded.
In analogy, regard the sticky-fingered child, a son who regularly greeted his father when his father came home from work, but who had trouble getting out of bed one Shabbot morning. The dad could have left for Shacharit without his boy, instructing his wife to bring the lad when she came to shul with their younger children. Instead, the dad elected to be late to schul in order to show his son that his son was valuable to him.
Had the child been surly in nature or had he regularly displayed less affection to his father, likely, the father would have waited as a good parent is wont to do, anyway. However, the child’s sweet disposition, made it that much easier for the father to show his son compassion.
I suggest we make it “that much easier” for Hashem to issue a good edict for each of us. Let’s try to embrace Him with love, rather than hesitantly approach Him with trepidation Heaven holds a cornucopia of blessings for each of us. Let’s do our histadlut. Let’s help insure we receive them. Our Father loves us.
May you and your dear ones be inscribed and sealed for all manners of goodness in the coming year! Shana Tova!