A few years ago, there a buzz about a frum teenage ping pong champion, Estee Ackerman, from West Hempstead. There was talk about her trying out for the United States Olympic Team for the 2020 Olympics. If she had made the team, she would’ve been the first orthodox member of the United States Olympic Team. I believe this paper previously published a story about her. I had forgotten about her story until I read an article in the Jewish Home. It mentioned that Estee was ready to try to make the Olympic Team, but the trials were from Thursday through Sunday. The United States Table Tennis committee was unwilling to make allowances for her so she would not have to play on Shabbos. Estee decided that Shabbos was more important, and did not participate in the tournament. She gave up her dream to make the Olympic team in 2020 because it conflicted with her religious beliefs.

Marc Hoschander used to sit in the row behind me every morning at the 6:15 a.m. minyan at Congregation Degel Israel. I saw him at shul the morning he died. I don’t even remember if I wished him a good day. Since then, especially last Friday, a week after he passed away, I look at his empty seat and there a sense of sadness. I could talk about Marc but both Shabsie Saphirstein and Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld gave glowing tributes, so I do not believe I could meaningfully add to what they expressed. I also do not need to address the pain and suffering that his family, including his mother, wife, and children, are going through, since it’s something that most people who have lost a loved one can relate to. Instead, I want to address what each one of us can learn from his passing and use for our own lives.

I went outside after shul this morning - I daven in a hashkamah (early) minyan - and I felt transported back to the morning of September 11, 2001. Today was a warm, sunny day with few clouds in the sky, just like it was twenty years ago. Then a little after 9:00 a.m., I felt a sense of sadness overcome me. I realized this was the time the second tower was hit.

In last week’s Torah reading of Bereishis, Adam is asked by G-d whether he had eaten from the tree from which he was commanded not to eat. Adam did not admit that he was wrong and take responsibility for his actions. Instead, he blamed G-d for having given him the woman who gave him the fruit. Adam forgot that he had asked G-d to create woman, as explained by Rashi. Then G-d went to Eve, who likewise did not admit she did anything wrong. She put the blame on the snake by claiming that the snake deceived her.

We hear, read, and say it every year on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur: Repentance, prayer, and charity change the decree to a positive ending. It sounds like an easy task, yet every year we fall short of our goal.