Shlomo Ezagui

How does your Autobiography Read?

Tim Wildsmith (Unsplash)

A few months before the passing of Rabbi Pinchas Menachem, Alter of Ger, an honorable writer, came to him in Israel from the United States to receive approbation for the new book he had just authored.

Before I continue, let me preface with something. It is well known that righteous and Godly people know when they are about to pass from this world. Some know a day, three days, a month, or more before that final day. This allows them to prepare for themselves and those they are connected to.

Back to our story.

Rabbi Pinchas blessed him and said, more like speaking to himself, “I, too, am writing a book, and I hope it will be a decent, respectable book. I am unsure, but I hope it will be a good book.”

The writer looked puzzled, and Rabbi Pinchas said, “In “The Ethics of Our Fathers” we are always encouraged to remember that all your deeds are written in a book.” He continued, “I hope my book will be good.” The Rabbi’s book was handed up to Heaven shortly after that episode.

We are wrapping up another chapter of our own books as we close to this year’s end. Our sages share the opportunity God grants us in this last month of the year, before the great days of judgment and the High Holidays, from the weekly Torah portion.

When the Israelites all lived in Israel, and someone killed another unintentionally, there was a fear that the relative of the dead person might want to avenge his relative, so God provided cities of refuge that would protect the killer due to his accident.

In God’s eyes, when a person transgresses intentionally but sincerely remorsefully, what they did becomes considered in God’s eyes as an unintentional, accidental sin. As long as they realize they acted foolishly when disregarding the rules, what they did is considered a mistake.

It should follow from the above that if someone murdered on purpose and he ran to the cities of refuge, sincerely regretful and repenting for his terrible deed, he should be protected from any further punishments because, at this point, we say what was done is acknowledged by the perpetrator as being wrong!

However, it is only God who reads hearts. A court, on the other hand, must judge by what they see and hear. Therefore, no matter what this individual now feels about his horrendous act, the courts must uphold law and order and the punishments the Bible prescribes for what was intentional at that moment.

But a compelling question arises. Right now, the person is different from the one who murdered shamelessly and viciously. How can a merciful God allow the ultimate punishment of death for an individual who is sorry to his core for what he now recognizes as a terrible and wrong act?

Here lies the very powerful and compelling message.

In the cities of refuge, even if only temporarily, everyone was protected — intentional and unintentional criminals alike. It was considered extreme, legally very difficult, and uncommon for a court to punish someone with death.

The power of repentance and regret is so mighty that if the remorse were deep enough and truly sincere, God, who is constantly reading our hearts and in control of every detail in the universe, would orchestrate things in such a way the person would legally never end up on death row. A reminder that even when a sword is at one’s throat, a person should NEVER give up hope.

The month before the High Holidays is the month of refuge from all that was done throughout the past year. During this month, we are protected. If we only look inward with sincere intentions, we can change even the past so that our future is written up for a sweet, healthy, and happy New Year.

Chapter 204

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" ( & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" ( In 1987, Rabbi Ezagui opened the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the island of Palm Beach, Florida.
Related Topics
Related Posts