Friday, October 31, 2008

Absolute Atonement

One time, Rav Mendel of Premishlan, zt”l, invited all of his friends to a festive meal. They asked, “What could be the occasion for such an elaborate meal during the middle of the week?”
Rav Mendel said somewhat cryptically, “It’s a seudas hoda’ah,” but did not elaborate.
During the meal itself, the Rebbe explained what he had meant. “After recuperating from an illness, it is customary to offer thanks to Hashem with an elaborate meal. We all know the reason for this; the person is celebrating the fact that he has recovered. Now, when we consider the fact that all sickness comes from sin, this seems a strange thing to celebrate. Usually a criminal who was punished for committing a crime would hardly celebrate when the court finishes punishing him! Quite the contrary—after it is all over, the former criminal tries to move on and forget the past. So why do we celebrate recovering from illness?”
All the participants sat attentively, waiting to hear his answer.
The Rebbe continued, “What we are celebrating is what Chazal taught: being healed from a sickness is an outward sign that one’s sins have been forgiven, and one can now enjoy a true connection to the Hashem unencumbered by the sins that had been serving as obstacles. Similarly, Chazal taught that the sins of a person who has been publicly embarrassed are all forgiven.”
He concluded joyfully, “Today, I was shamed so thoroughly in public I am sure that all my sins have been pardoned. So this meal is my thanks to the Eibeshter for granting me a clean slate!”

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