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Tuesday, October 3, 2023 - 18 Tishrei 5784
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Locked Out
You've been working late at the office. You go into the parking garage and notice how deserted it is. You glance nervously around. At least there aren't too many cars, everything's in plain sight.

Or you've been out shopping until the mall closed. When you arrived the parking lot was full. Now it's practically empty. You can see your car, alone on its row, one of a handful scattered about.

In either case, you get to your car, and reach for your keys. Nervously, you fumble with them, trying to find the right one. And you can't find it. Suddenly you realize, you left it in the office - and you can't get in until the morning. Or, you see them sitting on the driver's seat, where you dropped them.

You're locked out.

Or you've been out late, visiting with friends, or you're just coming back from a business trip. You've got your keys. But when you get to the door, you find it's chained.

You're locked out.

Of course, you can use your cell phone to call someone or wake up a family member. Yet for a moment, there's a desperate feeling. It's different than the fright you might feel until you reach your car or get to the house. That's a fear of the unknown. But this, this is frustration. This makes you angry. It's your car. It's your house. Why can't you get in? And the sense of helplessness, of being kept out is worse, much worse than the fright you felt a few minutes ago. It's like you've been rejected, like you've been barred from what belongs to you. It's not right. No one should be locked out of what belongs to him.

Sometimes, unfortunately, we feel locked out of our lives, out of our souls - that is, out of Judaism. It may be because we haven't had the education. We feel ignorant when we walk into synagogue, angry or embarrassed that we don't know Hebrew. We feel awkward doing a mitzva for the first time; we should know this. When we sit in a class or hear a lecture, and the rabbi is quoting from the Talmud or the Torah or Maimonides and we don't know which is which, we may feel, why bother.

And when we pray, that's when we may feel the most locked out. The words seem so foreign. Even in English the phrases seem stale, artificial. We look around and see others with their eyes closed, concentrating, expressions akin to joy; we hear the joyousness, or at least the communality of the song. And it all seems to come from the other side of a wall, a place we're not allowed to go. We want to turn our back, reject that which excludes us, deny a helplessness we cannot refute.

To this feeling our Sages tell us, the gates of prayer are always open. And there are many stories that demonstrate and emphasize the power of the simple prayer said with sincerity.

The same is true of Torah study, or mitzvot. Rabbi Akiva, the greatest scholar of his time, did not start until he was forty. And he learned and observed, one letter, one mitzva, one step at a time.

G-d doesn't lock us out. We lock ourselves out. But He'll hand us the key, if we let Him. All we have to do is ask.

When Moshiach comes, "no Jew will be left behind." Regardless of where we are, spiritually, Redemption opens its door. For G-d never locks us out.



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