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    The story is told of a man
    who wanted to join the
    Communist movement in
    Russia many years ago. He
    sat down with the official
    who conducted an

    The official said him, “I want you to
    understand what it means to be a
    Communist. It means that if you own a
    house, half of it is yours, and half is the
    The man nodded in consent.
    “If you own a farm, half the farm belongs to
    you, and half belongs to the government.
    “If you own horses, half the horses belong
    to you, and half to the government.
    “If you own cows, half the cows belong to
    you, and half to the government.”
    All throughout, the man nodded in
    Then the official said, “If you own chickens,
    then half the chickens belong to you, and half
    to the government.”
    “No!” the man shouted.

    The official was stunned. “You’re ok giving
    us half your house, your farm, your horses
    and your cows – but not your chickens?!” he
    “Well,” the man replied, “chickens are the
    only thing I actually own.”
    It’s easy to say that one is committed to
    something. But the real test comes when he
    has to make a real sacrifice for it, when he
    needs to give his “chickens” – whatever it is
    that means the most to him, for that cause.
    The highlight of the Yom Kippur service in
    the Bet Ha’mikdash was a special pair of
    sacrifices, involving two goats. A lottery was
    held, determining that one goat was
    earmarked to be offered as a sacrifice in
    the Bet Ha’mikdash, and the other was
    earmarked to be sent away to the desert and
    thrown off a cliff.
    What is the message of these goats? Why
    are two goats brought, one offered as
    a korban, and the other sent away into the
    desolate wilderness?
    This teaches us that if we want to come
    close to Hashem, we need to take something
    important to us and send it away. We need to
    be prepared to let go. We need to be prepared

    to sacrifice – to sacrifice something of value,
    something which we cherish.
    The Gemara in Masechet Rosh Hashanah
    teaches us the way to earn atonement for all
    our sins. It says that if somebody gives in, if
    he acquiesces when he could have made a
    legitimate demand, or a legitimate argument,
    then all his sins are forgiven.
    There is nothing more powerful than giving
    in, than letting go. There’s nothing more
    powerful than remaining silent and not saying
    anything when somebody does or says
    something offensive. There’s nothing more
    powerful than letting somebody else have
    something which you feel is rightfully yours,
    for the sake of peace. When we do this, we
    send a goat to desert, we let go of something
    very important to us. And when we do this,
    then we are able to draw very close to our
    A man who has a difficult relationship with
    his in-laws came to me one year before Rosh
    Hashanah to ask for advice, as his in-laws
    were going to be staying with him for the
    I told him, “Every time your mother-in-law
    opens her mouth in a manner you find

    inappropriate, you close your mouth, and in
    your mind, pray to Hashem to help one of
    your children succeed. Every time your
    father-in-law is about to say something which
    makes you uncomfortable, close your mouth
    and pray for one of your accounts.”
    If we want to draw close to Hashem and
    earn His blessing, we need to be able to give
    in, to sacrifice. And one of the most difficult,
    but most powerful, sacrifices we can make is
    sacrificing our ego, remaining silent when we
    have a legitimate reason to talk back.
    Let’s make a commitment this Yom Kippur
    to not just be a little better – but to be prepared
    to make real sacrifices, and then we will truly
    make this new year something special, one of
    real growth and progress, when we become
    so much better than we were before.