Rosh Hashanah

Making A Visible Change
Genesis 21

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the Holy Days is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Arnold Student Litman, may he rest in peace.

A year ago my wife and I purchased a home that was in a very run-down condition in one of Denver's Orthodox communities. My intention was to make this sixty-five year old home a dream home for my wonderful wife. In a short time we repaired and remodeled the entire home without changing the original flavor or beauty. It was so pleasing. We enjoyed our home and the community so much. We moved to that area with the intention of making the very best of it. We wanted to take advantage of every opportunity available to learn, to study, to grow...

Now that is not what happened. In fact what happened is rather shocking, to say the least... We won't go into that at this time. However there is a powerful lesson to be learned from this. It is the lesson of Haggar and Sarah.

Haggar was so close to righteousness yet so far. I am saying that the servant prepares the meal, serves the meal BUT does not sit at the table with their master to enjoy the meal. The servant is there. The servant is in the presence of righteousness but the servant is a servant. The servant is an employee. The servant is constrained by position, by class... Even though Haggar was a princess she was Sarah's servant. On one occasion Haggar ran away because it was difficult being Avram's wife and working for Sarai as her servant. On the one hand she should be held in esteem because she was Avram's wife and was caring for his child, but on the other she was nothing but a servant. The roles were confusing... There was this struggle constantly advancing all the time. Then to make matters worse, she was a princess of Egypt. She was raised as royalty and given like an animal into slavery. Can you identify with Haggar's dilemma? It was awkward at best. Avram wouldn't get involved. He refused to get involved! He said to Sarai, "Do to her {Haggar} as you see fit." Avram could have purchased Haggar from Sarai, but he didn't. Avram could have removed Haggar from Sarai, but he didn't. He could have interceded, but he didn't. Why not?

How would you like to be in Haggar's shoes? She was the wife of Avraham but the servant of Sarah. How does one benefit? How does one thrive in such a precarious position? Haggar had the opportunity of a lifetime, yet she was struggling with how to capitalize on it. How could she receive the benefit, the blessing, the joy and the flow from being Avraham's wife when she had to humbly and respectfully serve Sarah as her slave.

Eventually Haggar crashed after Avraham cast her and Yishmael out with only a loaf of bread and a water skin. The man that she loved, the man that she cared for, the man that she bore a son for, it was that man that cast her and her son out! Can you identify with the humiliation, the anger, the frustration?? Even though she was wrong to forsake Yiddishkeit and to return to idolatry, one can identify with her struggle.

One would think there could have been a better way. If that is true, what is it? What could have made the difference? What could have altered Haggar and Yishmael's expulsion?
The answer is an extremely careful and very deliberate observance of Rosh Hashanah. That would have made the difference! Rosh Hashanah is especially designed for people to really deal with their interrelationship baggage, their business baggage, their relative baggage.

Dealing with the baggage normally is more than just exchanging a few formal apologies. Problems that grow deep into the interior of one's soul require excavating, unearthing, releasing pressure, removing the toxic waste... Formal or informal apologies and a few niceties will not accomplish this. The problem is ingrained! The difficulty is firmly rooted! These types of problems require hours of very diligent, often tearful release. If formal apologies and a few niceties were all that were required to solve and heal marital problems then many marriage, family and social counselors would be changing professions.

The message is, it takes more than apologies to do shuva. Shuva requires change! Somewhere in the relationship of Avraham, Sarah and Haggar and Avraham, Haggar and Sarah shuva did not happen.... There were failures in acknowledging the problems... There were failures in dealing with the problems before they became epic... There were problems in adjusting or changing... Eventually, they led to a crash.

It seems that a willingness to forgive may have been missing....

It seems that pride may have had a loose leash...

It seems that any serious, heartfelt changes that one might have made leading up to Rosh Hashanah or during the ten days of repentance or on Yom Kippur were not transforming. They were not visible changes. Rosh Hashanah requires us to make a visible change in our pattern of behavior like an older home that has been restored to its former glory.

G-d willing, before Rosh Hashanah each of us will review our conduct from the past year with the intention of making restitution for our sins. Rosh Hashanah is the season for shuvah.

Maybe in another lesson we will discuss Haggar's transformation to Keturah and her return to being Avraham's wife and the mother of his children.

Other Related Subjects:

But I Said I'm Sorry

Separting From Parents Who Are In Error

Family Problems

If I Have Done Anything To Offend You

Am I Doomed By My Intentional Sin?

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva  G. Belk

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