Rosh Hashanah

When One's Back is Against the Wall ©
Genesis 21

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the Holy Days is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Donald Wayne Belk and Mr. Gary Lee Belk, may they rest in peace.

Genesis 21:8,9 "Sarah ...said to Avraham, 'Drive out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit with my son, Yitzchok!'"

Many years ago I founded a publishing company on a shoestring budget. During those years about 80% of all new businesses were failing within the first eighteen months in the metro Denver area. At one point during those years there were about 10,000 repossessed FHA and VA homes on the market. One could drive into vacant shopping centers one after the other in many areas. In certain areas one could get up to three months free rent on a one year lease for retail space. Homes in Grand Junction were selling for twenty-five cents on the dollar from what was originally paid. Downtown Denver office buildings were almost fifty percent vacant. Many landlords felt compelled to offer several months free rent to attract tenants. Those were eight very difficult years!

There were several times each year when business would drop off significantly. About a week before the fourth of July until about a week after, around the second week of December until the first week of January, and ten days around the time change in spring and fall. Business was so weak during these times. We knew it but rarely could adequately prepare for the financial crisis we would be propelled into. We were in hock up to our ears. It seemed like everything had a mortgage against it or a payment.

It was during one of those years as the December holiday season approached that our youngest son who was about three years old cast his eyes on a blue electric ride around truck. He wanted it as a gift for the holidays. It cost over two hundred dollars. With several children one cannot show favorites so it was $200.00 plus $200.00....

In my heart I realized how utterly impossible it was for me as his Avie to purchase what he wanted. It was especially difficult for me because he had memorized a store in our area that carried these ride around trucks. Wherever I went to meet with clients he would want to visit these stores. It was so difficult explaining that Avie didn't have the money. Avie couldn't afford it. Avie was concerned in earning enough money just to pay essential bills and have food to eat. Time and time again my youngest son and I would go through this same scenario. He wasn't listening to me!

One day we were in a store making some purchases of supplies for the business when he noticed they had on display an electric blue Ford ride around truck. The same thing started all over again. As I started to tell him "We don't have the money," he interrupted me and said, "I know, we don't have the money." Then he continued, "Avie, you believe in G-d?" I responded, "Yes!" He then said, "So ask G-d for the money to buy me this truck." I said, "O.K." What else could I say?

I spoke to his mother that evening like many times before. She reminded me like many times before that we had other children with wants and desires just like our youngest son. I also talked with G-d that evening. It was the kind of talk a Jew has at Rosh Hashanah. It was very serious, sincere and desperate, like just before the gates of heaven close late in the afternoon of Yom Kippur. I felt the urgency. It was close to the beginning of the holidays. My desperation in December felt like Rosh Hashanah. It was very stressful!

Within a few days a lady called my office. She need a book published immediately. We met, discussed the format, the costs, the production, etc. She wrote a check for one half the order and we began. Thank G-d!

That order and payment was an answer to a very desperate father's prayer for his children.

During the year we do wrong, G-d forbid! Sometimes we let it slide a little, knowing it's a ways to Judgment day... We think, 'I have time to make this right later...Maybe the other party / parties will make it right with me...' Time passes and before we know it, it's Rosh Hashanah in several days. What will we do? It is at this exact time that we need to experience that serious childlike persuasion. We need to feel backed into a corner... because we are! We need to feel the pressure that our children are counting on us to come through for them no matter how desperate the economy, etc. is...or how great of a mistake we need to repent for...

Avraham was there. He was backed into a corner. He felt the heat. He saw the problem brewing between Sarah, his wife, and Haggar, her slave woman and also his wife. He felt the pressure from Sarah and the pressure from Haggar. Avraham loved Yishmael his son of fifteen years and he loved Yitzchok his son of just two years. The pressure was intense.

It is at this point that we will realize how greatly we have failed to take our beliefs seriously. It is here that we are forced to face our failures and to deal with our wretched condition.

Avraham resisted Sarah's demand! I resisted my youngest son's persuasiveness! And you, what are you defying? Avraham talked to G-d. I talked to G-d! Maybe you should talk to G-d...every Jew needs to talk to the Creator at this season. Each of us must face what we have feared all year. We must, through our sincere confession, repulse the Yetzer Raw within each of us.

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

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