ECONOMIC DEBT AND SPIRITUAL DEBT HAVE MUCH IN COMMON; WITH THE DIFFERENCE THAT SPIRITUAL DEBT TENDS TO BE HEAVIER BECAUSE WE USUALLY OVERDRAW OUR HEAVENLY ACCOUNTS MORE. DURING THE DAYS OF JUDGMENT WE SHOULD BE CONDEMNED TO SPIRITUAL DEBTOR’S JAIL, BUT WE ARE NOT, BECAUSE G-D PREFERS THAT WE ADMIT OUR WRONGDOINGS AND “FILE FOR BANKRUPTCY.”
By Rabbi Naftali Silberberg
“Are you plagued by creditors? Is your debt load too much for you to bear? Declare bankruptcy and be permanently relieved of your crushing burden. Call the law firm of Steinberg & Steinber. They have been specializing in helping debt beleaguered people for more than 25 years. A simple phone call to 800-555-5555 will get you started on the legal process which will allow you to start a new and exciting chapter in your life…”
You’ve heard these words, or variations thereof, countless times during commercial breaks in the morning news, or during breaks in action while watching a ball game. Hopefully your personal financial state of affairs doesn’t cause you to be deeply interested in the content of these commercials—and may G-d bless all His children with a year of wealth and prosperity; a year in which “we will not be dependent upon the gifts of mortal men nor upon their loans, but only upon Your full, open, holy and generous hand”—but the spiritual lesson we can gather from the idea of bankruptcy is relevant to us all, especially during these special days of teshuvah [repentance].
IN THE SPIRITUAL SENSE, VIRTUALLY ALL OF US ARE PLAGUED BY HEAVY DEBT
In times bygone, a person who couldn’t repay his loans would rot in debtor’s jail. Once in jail, the pitiable debtor had no opportunity to earn any wages in order to satisfy his debts. His chance of freedom depended on the faint possibility that a friend or relative would provide the money to repay his debts. In modern, enlightened societies, debtor’s jails are relegated to the pages of history texts and are considered relics of a dark era which thankfully has past. Instead, we now recognize that a person must be given the ability to have a new start, because it is virtually impossible for many to put together the broken pieces of what was hitherto a mismanaged financial ledger while burdened by unbearable debt.
In the spiritual sense, virtually all of us are plagued by heavy debt. We have made many mistakes, overdrawing our heavenly account to the point that we are utterly insolvent. During the Days of Judgment, it would be appropriate for the Judge to condemn us to debtor’s jail until a friend or relative does some mitzvot on our behalf, bringing salvation and solace for our sorry souls.
In the spiritual sense, virtually all of us are plagued by heavy debt.
But our benevolent G-d allows us—indeed. He encourages us to declare bankruptcy. The legal proceedings, which will be commencing on Yom Kippur Eve and will continue for 25 hours, will be held in your local synagogue. For those who cannot make it to the “courthouse,” there is an option to connect to the “Judge” from the comfort of your home through “spiritual DSL.” There is no need to take an oath—the judge knows very well whether we speak truthfully and sincere or not. With the angel Michael serving as our seasoned attorney, we will turn to G-d and present our dismal case.
The judge will grant our bankruptcy request provided that we demonstrate that we understand the error of our past ways and submit to the court a viable proposal for restructuring our lives in the future.
Let us not miss the scheduled court date. After Yom Kippur it is quite difficult—but always possible—to assemble the court for a special session.
May the Almighty hear our prayers and grant all of Israel a new beginning, the beginning of a sweet new year, a year of happiness and redemption through our righteous Moshiach.