We are now just two days away from Yom Kippur. It’s a time of reflection. A period when we ask ourselves how we can improve in the coming year. We try to look in the mirror and see where we went wrong. And we try to figure out how to make real changes for the good.
So that’s what I’ve been, well, let’s be honest, halfheartedly trying to do since we first heard the shofar on Rosh Chodesh Elul. I mean, I’m a pretty good Jew. I pray. I keep Shabbat. I keep kosher. I try to learn Torah regularly. And I try to help people. I want to always appreciate God and His control of the world. I forget sometimes, but I generally know it to be the truth. I mean, I thank Him after every run I complete, even if it was a crappy one. So, I’m alright, I guess.
As a result, I’ve been focused on Teshuva, but, you know, not beating myself up about it.
Then Ari Fuld z”l was killed, and it shook my world.
I never met Ari. I barely even ever watched any of his videos. So I have absolutely no claim to knowing him, understanding him or even feeling his loss the way many people are feeling it today, even though my brain comprehends the magnitude of this loss for the Jewish nation.
But I do have admiration for the life he led. Ah, who are we kidding. It’s not admiration. It’s awe.
I don’t know how Ari Fuld and his wife Miriam (may she live long and with much strength) made ends meet financially. I don’t know what he thought he’d be doing for a living when he was at Touro College in the 90s. But it is clear to me that he knew one thing: The Jewish people needed him. The State of Israel needed him.
So he went to work for the Jewish people. He went to work for the State of Israel. And he did so in whatever capacity he believed could help, curriculum vitae and career path be darned.
I have had, by any measurement, a relatively successful professional career. My opinions matter to my clients. My skills and capabilities are useful to them and appreciated by them. I’m able to help the members of my company’s team learn, grow and succeed. I work with Israeli companies, helping them communicate with the world.
But I’ve been playing life safe and simple for too long.
I once heard a rabbi say that the major challenge of teshuva is accepting that your life from that moment forward will never be the same as it was before. For example, if one wants to commit to “no more cheeseburgers,” the biggest mountain to climb is that of saying to oneself, “wow, but cheeseburgers are part of who I am! How can I not be that guy EVER AGAIN?!” So many will advise, “okay, start with only having a cheeseburger once a month, then once every six weeks, then once a quarter, and eventually, you will have changed gradually to the point that you are no longer a cheeseburger guy.
I need to start fighting on behalf of the Jewish people. I need to start fighting for the State of Israel. But I’m not Ari Fuld z’l. I don’t have the guts to put everything aside for the sake of Klal Yisrael the way it seems Ari always was able to.
But I must take steps in that direction. Otherwise, I am just walking through life trying to keep things as safe and simple as possible. And if there is one thing Ari Fuld z”l taught all of us, it’s that safe and simple is no way to live.
Reb Ari, whom I never met, but of whom I will always be in awe: You are continuing to impact the Jewish people even after you have left us, because you have impacted me, and are inspiring me today to do more for the Jewish people. I will not be able to match what you’ve done. But I’m tired of my simple, safe life.