IMPRESSED BY PRESS SECRETARIES

Politics aside, I have a special place for Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the first mom to ever hold the job of White House Press Secretary. It was, therefore, more than with a modicum of interest that I read about “Speaking for Myself” a memoir of hers that came out this week. More than a desire to learn more about what goes on in the White House (I have read books by other Press Secretaries, as well) the title stirred a nerve. With the High Holy days soon upon us, “speaking for myself” is a totally inappropriate description of what will soon be taking place as HaShem scrutinizes us to determine whether we merit being inscribed in the heavenly Book of Life. As Jews, we do not speak for ourselves; our deeds speak for us. Moreover, when it comes to learning the latest about us, there is no such thing as Press Secretaries. Unlike public figures, everything about us is a private matter between us and our Supreme being.

There are, however, “Impress Secretaries”. Occasionally, it happens that we surprise ourselves. Occasionally, it happens that we are able to accomplish a feat, that we were certain was above and beyond our capabilities. While we perform a reality check by pinching ourselves to ascertain did this really happen, while we remain dazed, wondering how in the world did we ever accomplish that, HaShem sits up in heaven with a celestial smile on His face. For HaShem, it is a moment of vindication, in that HaShem knew our potentials all along, even if we did not, or were plagued by doubt or insecurity. In addition, HaShem is grateful to us for having provided Him with yet another reason to “shep naches”. At the risk of taking issue with our venerated sages of old, it may very well be that such feats and accomplishments rather than our everyday deeds capture HaShem’s attention for “recording purposes”.

Judaism teaches us that each of us has a good inclination and an evil inclination. I cannot help but feel that each of us, has not only an “Impress Secretary” but a “Depress Secretary” as well. Just as our “Impress Secretary” is there to inform HaShem that we “hit it out of the Ball Park”, our “Depress Secretary” is there to inform HaShem that we “struck out”, because of improper and uncalled for behavior on our part. To cause HaShem consternation due to carelessness or thoughtlessness on our part is very much human. HaShem takes such foibles in stride. After all, HaShem never intended for humans to be perfect. To cause HaShem consternation because of intended and willful cruelty on our part is very much inhuman. Such behavior is intolerable as far as HaShem is concerned. No different than the “Impress Secretary” delivering “naches” news to HaShem, it is the “Depress Secretary” who is responsible for delivering “shandeh” (shame or embarrassment) news to HaShem. Again, meaning no disrespect to our venerated sages of old, it may very well be that such detestable and disgraceful behavior rather than our everyday missteps capture HaShem’s attention for “recording purposes”.

Atonement may very well be one of the most misunderstood words when it comes to what is expected of us during the High Holy days. However meaningful words of contrition and regret might be, they are largely ineffectual. For all the breast-beating that takes place during Yom Kippur services, it would be prudent to bear in mind that deeds carry the day in Judaism, not words. Mitzvot and aveirot – commandments that have been carried out and sins that have been executed are weighed against each other on the heavenly scales during the first ten days of Tishrei each year, not promises and vows. Put differently, what is expected of us with the arrival of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur each year, is how we express ourselves through deeds. It is for this reason, that in addition to an “Impress Secretary” and a “Depress Secretary” each of us also has been entrusted with an “Express Secretary” who is given the task of informing HaShem whether we have expressed that which we have committed to do, through deed.

I wish Sarah Huckabee Sanders much success with her new book. I wish that our “Impress Secretary” has far more to say than our “Depress Secretary”. Last but not least, I wish that “Our Express Secretary” has the easiest job in heaven, because good and noble deeds of ours have already begun to attract notice up in heaven.