Monday, May 28, 2007

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A Baal Teshuvah (a chozeh b'tshuva, a Jewish person who became or returned to observant Judaism) had a huge graphic tattoo on his arm...a symbol of his dark past that he tried to hide with all his ability. (Tattoo's are prohibited in Judaism.) He would avoid any situation in which it might get exposed.

It was erev Yom Kippur (before Yom Kippur) and everyone was going to the mikvah, which he didn't want to deprive himself of. He planned to go at a time when it would be least crowded and keep a towel around his arm until the very last moment, then enter and exit very quickly. When he got there, it was unfortunately still very crowded, and he could feel the anxiety swelling inside.

He decided to continue, but the tile floor was wet and he was in too much of a hurry. He slipped in a dramatic way, drawing everyone's attention, and the bustling room was suddenly deathly silent as his worst fear was realized. He was paralyzed with shame.

Suddenly, a Jewish elder picked him off the floor by the hand. He showed him the numbers the Nazis (may their name be blotted out) had etched onto his arm and said, "This was my hell, probably that was yours. Let's go into the Mikvah together."

- from the stories of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, zt"l

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