One of the most famous midrashim on the Torah concerns the Arbaah Minim that we take on Sukkos. “‘Fruit of the hadar tree’ symbolizes Israel: Just as the esrog has taste as well as fragrance, so Israel has among them those who possess learning and good deeds. ‘Branches of palm-trees’ also applies to Israel: Just as the palm tree has taste but no fragrance, so Israel has among them those who possess learning but not good deeds. ‘And boughs of a myrtle tree’ likewise applies to Israel: Just as the myrtle has fragrance but no taste, so Israel has among them those who possess good deeds but not learning. ‘And willows of a brook’ also applies to Israel: Just as the willow has no taste and no fragrance, so Israel has among them those who possess neither learning nor good deeds. What does the Holy One, blessed be He, do to them? To destroy them is impossible. ‘However,’ says the Holy One, blessed be He, ‘let them all be bound together in one bundle, and they will atone one for another.’”

The Gemara recounts how the Sages told Rabbi Zeira, “One should always reject with the left hand and embrace with the right.” (Sotah 47b). Rabbi Zeira, however, preferred to focus on the sin, not the sinner. He had faith that even a hardcore sinner, even a hoodlum, who is wicked towards G-d and wicked towards people, has a very positive seed hidden away in his soul, which over time can eventually overpower all evil and hooliganism. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 37b) quotes Reish Lakish, who taught, “Even the empty among you are as full of virtuous deeds as a pomegranate.” Rabbi Zeira went even further and deduced the notion of highlighting the positive even in negative people, from the following pasuk: “And he (Yitzchak Avinu) smelled the pleasant aroma of his garments” (B’reishis 27:27) – Do not read it as ‘garments’ (b’gadav) but rather as ‘traitors’ (bogdav).”

The problems facing a fellow Jew are our pro blems, and the tears streaming down their faces are just as real to us as they are to them. If we are looking for ways to repent our sins with a complete t’shuvah and herald the holy day of Yom Kippur when we reunite with our Father in Heaven, this is where we must begin. We reach upwards by reaching outwards.

When the Avnei Neizer, Rav Avraham Bornstein zt”l, moved to the Polish city of Sochatchov and became Rebbe, he was very reluctant to alter his regular schedule of shiurim and he insisted that his learning seder was not to be interrupted. After a while, his chasidim noticed that while he answered each petitioner concisely, he did not spend much time with them. When questioned about this, the Rebbe responded, “You should know that for every second that I am disrupted in my learning, these people have losses at home. It is to their advantage that I only hold brief audiences with them!”

When the Bolshevik Revolution overtook the Russian landscape, one of the primary objectives of the ruling Communist Party was to dismantle the practice of religion, particularly the Jewish religion. To that end, many decrees were issued against the practice and observance of Judaism, and many Jews were forced to flee their homes or professional practices in secret. Moscow, which had recently become the capital city of the USSR, forbade Jews to reside within its limits, and only certain worker permits were issued to Jews in special cases.

Traveling today for a religious Jew is quite different than it was years ago, and a simple airplane ride has come a long way. For example, food is readily available for a religious Jewish traveler, and kosher meals, snacks, drinks, and even alcoholic beverages can be had at one’s beckoning; a person is not lacking when he travels on a plane. When Rav Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky zt”l, the Rosh Yeshivah of Ner Yisroel in Baltimore, would travel, however, he refused to eat the plane food even if it had a proper hechsher and, instead, his wife would prepare him the requisite meals for his travels. On one occasion, Rav Yaakov was flying to another city for the purpose of meeting an important donor to the Yeshivah. The flight duration was a few hours, and since he wouldn’t eat the food being served anyway, his wife had prepared a sandwich for him prior to the flight. A short time after takeoff, when the Rosh Yeshivah saw that the flight attendants began to give out food trays to the other passengers, he opened up his hand luggage and took out the package that his wife had prepared for him.