Thursday, September 21, 2023

Rosh Hashanah, The Test of the House of the Repentance, 2023

 If Edgar Allan Poe gave a Rosh Hashanah sermon:

In the forgotten depths of a decaying city, there stood a decrepit mansion. The mansion was old, a relic from a time long past, and it carried with it a sinister reputation. The mansion was known as the House of Repentance, a place where those seeking redemption went to confront their darkest sins.

For years, the House of Repentance had remained abandoned, a symbol of dread that loomed over the city. Its windows were shattered, its walls were covered in ivy, and its once grand entrance was now a crumbling archway. But despite its dilapidated state, the house had a magnetic pull on those who had transgressed.

One fateful evening, as a cold and clammy fog descended upon the city, a man named Samuel found himself standing before the House of Repentance. Samuel was a tortured soul, burdened by the weight of his sins. He had betrayed a dear friend, lied to his family, and stolen from those who trusted him. His conscience had become a relentless tormentor, and he had heard rumors of the house's power to grant redemption.

With trembling hands, Samuel pushed open the creaking door and entered the mansion. The air inside was thick with a sense of foreboding, and the walls seemed to whisper his sins. He ventured deeper into the darkness, guided only by the dim light of his lantern.

As he explored the mansion, Samuel encountered a series of rooms, each more haunting than the last. In the first, he saw a ghostly vision of his past self, innocent and full of promise, before he had fallen into darkness.

In another room, the reflection in the glass forced him to relive the things he had done wrong.  Ghoulishly, he saw himself, who, though he had every chance not to, went ahead with his misdeeds – over and over without end.

But it was the next room that would test his resolve the most. In that room, there was a single, ornate mirror that seemed to radiate an eerie glow. Samuel approached it hesitantly, and as he gazed into the mirror, he was confronted with the full extent of his sins. He saw the pain he had caused, the trust he had shattered, and the lives he had ruined.

Overwhelmed with guilt and despair, Samuel fell to his knees and wept. He begged for forgiveness, but the house did not grant him absolution.  No deity or supernatural force gave him a reprieve.  He could not even find forgiveness in himself.  Not yet. 

He looked up at the mirror in front of him again.  It showed him… nothing.  Running, he made his way back through all the rooms he had passed.  In none did the mirrors show him anything, not even his own reflection.  They were empty, as if waiting for something to finally fill them. 

Hours passed, and Samuel emerged from the House of Repentance a changed man. He knew that he could never erase the past, but he also understood the importance of doing teshuvah, of seeking forgiveness and making amends. With newfound determination, he set out to right his wrongs, to mend broken relationships, and to live a life of integrity. 

Only then, though Samuel saw it not, did pictures of the healed people, relationships, and world that he had created shimmer into existence.  Only then, after earning the forgiveness from others, did he finally feel it from God, and from himself, as well. 

The House of Repentance remained standing, a somber reminder of the power of self-reflection and the importance of doing teshuvah. It was a place where the weight of one's sins could be felt, and where the path to redemption began with a long, hard look in the mirror of one's own soul. Samuel's story served as a cautionary tale to all who passed by, a reminder that the darkness within could only be dispelled through genuine remorse and the sincere desire to change.

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