Sunday, September 28, 2008

one day of freedom

In the 16th Century, an innocent Jew was thrown into prison by a feudal baron who gave him a life sentence. For some reason, this tyrannical baron decided to show the man a bit of mercy. He told him, “Look Jew, you’re my prisoner for life, there’s nothing that will change that. But this I will do for you: I will grant you one day out of every year, one day of freedom during which you can return to your family, to your community. You can practice your religion, do whatever you want. I don’t care which day you choose. But remember, you have only one day a year; you decide for yourself which day it will be.”

The man was conflicted. What day should he choose?

Should he choose Rosh Hashanah – to hear the sounding of Shofar? Yom Kippur – the holiest day of the year? Passover – to celebrate a Seder? His wedding anniversary?

This Jewish prisoner, not being able to make up his mind, wrote a letter to one of the rabbinic leaders of that generation, the Radbaz (Reb Dovid ben Abi Zimra), asking for his advice (3).

The Radbaz wrote him back an answer. He said, the day you should choose is the very first day available. Whatever it is, grab it now, don’t wait! Be it a holiday, a Shabbat, a Monday, a Wednesday, the soonest day you can get out, grab it.

This was a marvelous reply. More important, it holds true for us as well. We too, are often psychological prisoners to our bad habits. We feel it is too difficult to summon the will to do things right. “I’m not ready yet. I can’t change who I am.”

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