A renowned mashpia (chassidic mentor) once told the following story.

The Kaiser of Austria came to visit the Czar of Russia. A state dinner with all the trimmings was served. One of the items on the menu was kishke, otherwise known as stuffed derma. Real kishke is nothing like the "kishke" that is available at your local delicatessen. Real kishke is actually the intestines of the animal stuffed with flour and oil and all sorts of spices. I had it only once in my life when I was visiting Israel. I think it might even be illegal in the United States.

Enough of my food review. The bottom line is that kishke was served and the Kaiser loved it. He asked the Czar to send his cooks the recipe. The Czar graciously promised to do so. After the Kaiser's departure the Russian cooks wrote down the recipe and sent it via diplomatic mail to the Kaiser's chefs.

The day finally came when the Kaiser was informed that he would be served kishke. He sat down hungrily. Out came a tray. Phew! Did it stink! The Kaiser took off the cover from his plate and took a bite. He immediately spat out the piece and ordered the tray removed and the kishke thrown away.

A letter of official protest was immediately dispatched to the Czar. How dare he send a recipe for such a vile concoction! The Czar received the protest letter and summoned his cooking staff for an explanation.

Initially, the imperial kitchen staff was perplexed. They went over the recipe and could not find the problem. After quite some time and in a moment of inspiration, one of the staff exclaimed incredulously, "Of course! We told him how to stuff and spice the kishke, but we never realized that we needed to tell him to clean it out before he stuffs it!"

This story is a parable for teshuva, a.k.a. repentance. Often times we make firm resolutions for the future especially as we near the upcoming Days of Awe. As Rosh Hashanah approaches, we begin to think more and more about ways to improve. The above story teaches us that, indeed, good deeds are important. However, resolutions are best when prefaced by an honest stocktaking in order to correct any areas in our behavior that need fixing. Otherwise even with all of the spices (good resolutions) in the world, a person may remain a stinking kishke...