S inned doubly, punished doubly, comforted doubly. 

“ ‘Console, console, My people,’ says your G-d.” (Yeshayahu 40:1 —

the haftarah)

RThe Midrash (Eichah Rabbah 1:57) asks: Why is the wording repetitive? Because Bnei Yisrael sinned doubly, therefore, they were punished doubly, and they’ll also be comforted doubly.

It’s comparable to two people who separated from each other; the more one traveled, the more the second moved away from him.

So too, the more Yisrael sinned, the more Hashem was distanced from them. As Rashi says (Devarim 11:13): “If you leave Me one day, I’ll leave you two.”

Every day that a person distances himself from Torah, the Torah distances itself a day from him — doubling the distance. (Rav Shimshon Pincus, Tiferes Shimshon)

It was supposed to be a quick errand. I needed some exercise weights, so I ran into a large sports store and picked up a few dumbbells.

The plan was to pay quickly and leave. The glitch was, my 11-year-old son was with me.

At the cashier, I realized he’d disappeared. Scanning the aisles I found him, eyes glued to a gleaming ten-speed bike, proudly displayed on a raised stage. I could practically see the reflection of the shiny spokes in his eyes.

“Look, Ma! Ten speeds!”

“You already have a bike. Let’s get going.”

“Mine just has three speeds.” From the scorn in his voice it was clear how pathetic that was.

“It’s a perfectly good bike,” I handed my dumbbells to the cashier and tried to keep Avi’s attention away from the bicycle.

“Are you a member of Sporty Shoppers?” asked the cashier. “If not, you can start today. It doesn’t cost anything and you get loads of perks.”

I wasn’t paying attention at this point, but I gave her my personal info, got my five-percent discount, and raced out of the store.

When a person sins, he loses his siyata d’Shmaya, so when punishments descend, he suffers doubly and falls even more. This is like someone who’s ill in bed; he suffers from his illness, but also loses money because he cannot work. (ibid.)

When Avi hugged me at bedtime, I knew what was coming.

“Mommy, I really want that bike.”

“You’re welcome to save and buy it yourself.”

“That’ll take forever!”

He clearly wasn’t happy with the turn the conversation took. Yet, a couple days later he approached me with a bag full of coins.

“Here’s what I’ve saved so far. Can you keep it so I won’t spend it and I’ll keep adding to it?”

“I’m so proud of you! You’re gonna make it!”

Waiting was agony for Avi. Week by week he added a few coins, counting his loot like Silas Marner, while I continued to encourage him.

This concept is also true of comfort. When a person does teshuvah with his whole heart, Hashem turns to him with love and siyata d’Shmaya so he’s doubly successful.

The Rambam writes in Hilchos Teshuvah (7:6): How great is teshuvah! Last night he was distant from Hashem, crying but not answered, and today he’s connected to Hashem — he calls out and is answered immediately.

When a person wants to do teshuvah, he should take stock of his abilities. He may feel that repenting takes more strength than he’s capable of. But this isn’t so. When he begins to draw close to Hashem, he gets double siyata d’Shmaya, doubling his strengths and he’s able to merit rising doubly. (ibid.)

Several months went by and I needed a new exercise mat. I chose one at the same store and when the cashier swiped my credit card, she said, “Happy Birthday!”

It wasn’t my birthday.

“This is your birthday month, isn’t it? So you get 30 percent off one item this month only. You only have three more days.”

I looked at the exercise mat. My old one was still serviceable and it wasn’t even an expensive item. What should I splurge on?

I suddenly thought of a worn plastic ziplock bag full of coins. Coins, lovingly counted, carefully saved, coins of a boy determined to succeed in his goal despite the agonizing slowness and progress.

“That bike on display — how much is it with the 30-percent discount?”

It was enough. I signed on the purchase, promising to bring Avi back to measure the bike to fit him.

I couldn’t wait to tell him how, despite the slow pace, he’d just jumped full-speed ahead to the finish line. (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 553)