Yussie Yablonsky, aged fifty-six, sat on the bench by the parking lot of his synagogue, Bais Chaim. He studied the congregation as they headed toward the front doors. The men looked prosperous and proud in their dark suits, the women were radiant in their new dresses, and the children looked like dress-up dolls even when they were misbehaving.

Yussie looked down at what he was wearing. His green jacket was worn through at the right elbow, his red striped shirt was missing two buttons, and his blue pants had a cuff that had come undone. He could feel the damp grass through the holes in the soles of his shoes.

Six weeks earlier, he had lost his job picking up trash Michael Fein, the president of Bais Chaim, drove up in a brand-new, jet-black Lexus. He parked in his assigned spot, opened the door and stepped out like a king. He smoothed the wrinkles from his expensive suit, straightened his silk tie, and patted down his styled hair. He walked around the car and opened the door for his wife. She stepped out wearing a French designer dress, patent leather high heels, and a matching Gucci bag. Their children, a handsome boy of twelve and a pretty girl of eleven, joined them as prince and princess. Together, the wealthiest Jewish family in Sunshine, a little town near Miami, strutted toward the entrance of the synagogue. Once inside, Michael Fein sat in the first row, next to the rabbi, in the seat of honor.

Yussie inhaled the warm October air that was settling in. Sundown was approaching, signaling the start of Yom Kippur, the High Holy Day, the Day of Atonement. Jews around the world would observe this holiday the same as the Jews in Sunshine; they would take off from work, go to synagogue, and fast for the next twenty-five hours. Some would spend most of those hours in synagogue, praying, begging God's forgiveness for their sins committed during the year.

Like the rest of the congregation, Yussie was going to take the next day off. However, unlike them, he had no job to go to. Six weeks earlier, he had lost his job picking up trash along the Florida highways because of budget cuts.

Yussie planned to attend services for a few hours this night, walk home, and then return tomorrow. The day after that, disaster loomed.

On that approaching disastrous day, Marshal O'Neill had a 1pm appointment to evict Yussie from his tiny apartment. He would put Yussie's third-hand furniture and meager belongings out on the curb, change the locks, and then escort Yussie to his new home, the streets of Sunshine.

Yussie listened to his stomach growl. The rest of the congregation had a large and elaborate meal before starting the fast. Yussie finished the last of his oatmeal yesterday morning, and had nothing to eat for a day and a half. It would not be an easy fast for him. Already he was starving, and he had to sit down because he felt light-headed and dizzy.

Already he was starvingYussie believed he was observing Yom Kippur like a good Jew. He was taking the day off from work and fasting. He would have preferred to have performed these two observances voluntarily, rather than due to unemployment, starvation, and homelessness.


Inside Bais Chaim, the congregation was captivated. Cantor Bushevsky, with his beautiful tenor voice, was at the dais singing Kol Nidreh, the opening prayer.

Rabbi Yaakov Levi, whose nickname was Yankee, was seated next to Michael Fein. Yankee was wearing a kapata, the black suit of a Chossid, and his long dark beard made him look older than his thirty-two years. It was going to be a serene night for the rabbi. The cantor would conduct the service, and the rabbi would deliver a short sermon at the end. Rabbi Levi leaned back, closed his eyes, and began his ascent into a peaceful, holy state of mind.

But no matter how the rabbi tried, his thoughts were blocked.

Something, or someone, was missing. Something necessary, but he could not put his finger on it. He looked around at the sea of atoning faces in his congregation and took inventory of the souls entrusted to him. Everyone appeared to be there... except for the Schwarz's, who were visiting their parents in Palm Beach... and the Frisch's... they were with their daughter in Canada... and Morris Steinberg... he was in the hospital recovering from a gall bladder operation.

The rabbi glanced over at the column in the back of the synagogue. He strained his ears, but he did not hear Yussie's telltale snoring behind it. That was it! He waited until Cantor Buschevsky asked the congregation to stand, and then the rabbi slipped quietly to the back.

Yussie's special place was empty. The Rabbi saw him outside before services started, but where was he now? With Yussie, who knew?

"Please, G‑d, would you mind hearing Yussie's forgiveness prayer out here?"Rabbi Levi exited out the rear door of the synagogue. He looked around the backyard and the parking lot until... there was Yussie. He was sitting on a bench, looking up at the sky. He seemed lonely and lost. The rabbi approached unnoticed. He stopped when he heard Yussie talking out loud.

"G‑d, I am sorry," Yussie began. "I want to go inside to pray, but I haven't eaten anything for a day and a half, and I am afraid I will pass out and embarrass myself in front of the others. So, please, G‑d, would you mind hearing Yussie's forgiveness prayer out here?"

Yussie closed his eyes and bowed his head. Then he looked up again.

"G‑d, I do not have the special Yom Kippur prayer book, where it lists all the sins, so I'll go through the Ten Commandments, if You don't mind."

Yussie closed his eyes again and lowered his head.

"First, You are my Lord, and I do love You with all my heart." Yussie held up one finger.

"I have not worshipped any other G‑d's." Yussie held up a second finger.

"Uh oh," Yussie said, holding up a third finger. "I did take Your name in vain. Once, when I accidentally ran the stick with the nail on the end of it into my shoe – you know, the stick I used to pick up trash by the highway – well, it hurt, and without thinking, I said, 'G‑d damn it!'"

Yussie looked up and sighed. "G‑d, I'm sorry. I did not mean to blame you. It was all Yussie's fault... by the way, thank You for not giving me an infection."

Yussie bowed his head again and continued, "I remembered Shabbat, and kept it holy." Yussie held up a fourth finger now.

"Uh oh! Wait a minute!" Yussie looked up. "There was one time, about two months ago, when I lit a candle after sundown because the power company turned off the electricity - I could not pay the bill - and I could not find my false teeth. I needed them to eat supper. I'm sorry."

Yussie bowed his head again and continued. "I honored my parents. I said Kaddish for both of them on the anniversary of their passing." He had all five fingers on his right hand raised now.

He raised a finger in his left hand.

"Murder? Who could think of such a thing!" he exclaimed.

He raised a second finger on his left hand.

"The seventh commandment?" Yussie looked up and laughed. "There is no woman that wants me, so I am safe there, too."

Yussie paused, looking down at the eight and ninth fingers he raised. "I did not steal. I also did not lie or bear false witness."

Yussie raised his last finger, and then closed his hands.

"Well, there you have it, G‑d. All totaled, three sins""Did I covet? Yes, G‑d, I coveted. You know that I have been out of work for six long weeks now, and you also know that the day after tomorrow I will be evicted by the marshal. This morning I saw Felix Lopez walking to work... you know he has a great job at the Post Office with health benefits and a retirement plan. Well, I coveted his job. I am sorry. You know I wish I had a good job and did not have to run to the emergency room at the hospital every time I get sick... and I worry what I will do when I am too old to work... but I am willing to wait until you find something for me. In the meantime, G‑d, I promise, I will not covet Felix Lopez's job any more."

Yussie looked up and wiped a tear from his eye.

"Well, there you have it, G‑d. All totaled, three sins – one curse, one Shabbat mistake, and a coveting. This year has not produced a great harvest of wrongs for your Yussie. It is not so easy to sin when you have so little. Perhaps next year, if You give me a next year, You will allow Yussie more blessings, so he will have more temptations."

Rabbi Levi tiptoed quietly back to the synagogue's rear door. He went to the kitchen and took two bagels and a small container of milk from the refrigerator. He walked back to Yussie, and when he got near, he cleared his throat. Yussie looked over at him.

"Yussie, good Yom Tov," Rabbi Levi called out.

"Rabbi!" Yussie said, jumping up. "I am sorry. I lost track of the time. I will come in now."

Yussie weaved around, and then fell down. The Rabbi helped him up, brushed him off, and then gently placed him back on the bench.

"Yussie, G‑d can not accept your fast until you are strong enough to risk it. Here." Rabbi Levi handed Yussie the bagels and milk.

"Are you sure, Rabbi?" Yussie asked, his mouth watering.

"Yes, I am sure. We still have a few minutes until sundown. Go ahead. Eat, Yussilah."

Yussie ate ravenously and it pleased the rabbi to give Yussie so much pleasure with such simple food.

"Would you like more?" the Rabbi asked after Yussie finished.

"No, that has quieted my belly. Now I can begin my fast, Rabbi."

The two men sat there, looking up at the darkening sky.

"Rabbi, I am in trouble," Yussie began, looking into the Rabbi's eyes. "Can you help me?"

The rabbi patted Yussie's shoulder. "I will try, Yussilah."

They were interrupted by the sound of footsteps behind themYussie explained to the rabbi how he was out of work and had no money and that he was going to be evicted. Rabbi Levi listened patiently, even though he already knew. When Yussie was finished, he looked once again in the Rabbi's eyes and said, "Please, Rabbi, please help me... I'm scared."

They were interrupted by the sound of footsteps behind them. The rabbi looked over his shoulder and there was Michael Fein approaching. The rabbi studied the man as he came closer. What was it about him that radiated power? His strut, his posture, or his unyielding stare?

"Rabbi, why are you out here?" Michael Fein asked.

"I am keeping a friend company, Michael. You know Yussie Yablonsky, don't you?"

"No," Michael answered coldly. He did not offer to shake hands.

"Rabbi, I would like to talk to you," Michael said.

"So sit. We'll talk."

"I would like to do it in private, if you don't mind." When Michael shot a look of disdain at Yussie, revulsion welled up inside Rabbi Levi.

"Michael," the Rabbi said, "it would be rude of me to leave my friend, Yussie."

"Rabbi, I don't mind." Yussie said as he tried to stand up, but the rabbi held him back.

The rabbi turned to Michael. "Michael, if you want to talk, please sit here and let's talk. You're among friends."

Yussie cowered, but the rabbi did notMichael Fein clenched his fists and stared at the rabbi, then at Yussie. Yussie cowered, but the rabbi did not. Michael Fein stomped back to the rear of the synagogue and slammed the door behind him.

"Rabbi, I think, maybe, he was angry," Yussie said.

"Yussie, I think maybe both of us might be out on the street the day after tomorrow."

"I'll go inside and apologize for you." Yussie said, trying again to stand up, but the rabbi pulled him back.

"No, Yussie, this is my day of atonement, too. All year long that man has been disrespectful of my decisions and has tried to bully me around. I told myself I accepted his demands because he is the 'Big Giver' in the synagogue, and I had responsibilities. But that was not true. I was afraid. My sin was putting up with it."

They were interrupted again by the sound of the back door opening. Once again, Michael Fein appeared and was approaching fast.

"Well, Yussie, here it comes," Rabbi Levi whispered.

Michael stood in front of the bench. He looked at the rabbi, then Yussie, and then back at the rabbi.

The Rabbi took a deep breath. "Yes, Michael?"

"Could you move over please, Rabbi?" Michael asked.

The rabbi breathed a sigh of relief as he slid toward Yussie, making room on his right. Michael Fein sat down.

"Rabbi, I need your help," Michael began.

"If it is in my power."

"So, dear Michael," the Rabbi said, smiling. "Are you bragging, or complaining?"Michael deliberated a long time before speaking. Finally, he said, "Rabbi, I woke up this morning and thought, here I am. I'm forty-five and I have everything I've always wanted. I have a great career, a great wife and family, a great home in a great neighborhood ... and I have every reason to believe I will have more of the same for the rest of my life."

"So, dear Michael," the Rabbi said, smiling. "Are you bragging, or complaining?"

"No, Rabbi, you don't understand. I was confused. I was confused because something still felt missing. Something is missing... it's not enough."

"What feels missing, Michael?" Rabbi Levi asked, becoming serious again.

"Rabbi, that was the disturbing part. I didn't know what was missing. I thought about this all day, and it drove me crazy. It wasn't until I saw you tonight at synagogue that I knew."

"Knew what?"

"I knew what was missing. I knew that I needed to do something... something... something... something that ... Rabbi, this is embarrassing."

Rabbi Levi waited for Michael to finish while Yussie remained silent.

"Rabbi, I want this Yom Kippur to be special," Michael Fein continued. "I don't want to just whisper some prayers and beg forgiveness from G‑d. G‑d knows I can sin. I want to show G‑d I can do something... good. Yes, that's it. I want to do something good."

"What good thing do you want to do, Michael?"

"That's the problem, Rabbi. I don't know what to do. I have forgotten how to think this way."

This man's soul is as hungry as the other man's bellyThe rabbi studied Michael's face, which was illuminated by the nearby street lamp. He looked over at Yussie, then back to Michael, and he thought to himself: This man's soul is as hungry as the other man's belly.

The rabbi waited for Michael to continue. When he didn't, the rabbi cleared his throat.

"Perhaps you would like me to offer a suggestion, Michael?"

"Yes, Rabbi. Please."

"Michael, do you see this man sitting on the other side of me? Yussie is a good man, an honest man, a hard-working man. He lost his job and the day after tomorrow, the marshal is going to put him out on the street because he has no money to pay rent. You are an attorney. You are rich. You know people and you know the law. Maybe you could help this man?"

Michael Fein studied Yussie, then the rabbi.

"Nu?" the Rabbi questioned.

"Okay, Rabbi," Michael agreed.

Michael still had a puzzled expression on his face, and then broke out into a beautiful smile. He stood up, straightened his suit, and shook the rabbi's hand. Then he turned to Yussie.

"Yussie, when Yom Kippur is over, I will meet you back here and after the break fast meal, you and I will map out a rescue plan for you."

"Michael, wait. There is one more thing I would like you to do.""Thank you," Yussie said to Michael. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Yussie jumped up and before anyone could stop him, he hugged the president of the synagogue.

Rabbi Levi gently pried Michael from Yussie's arms, and then hugged Yussie. Michael started to walk back to the synagogue, but the rabbi called out to him, "Michael, wait. There is one more thing I would like you to do."

"Yes?" Michael asked, turning around.

"I want you to escort Yussie back into the synagogue. He is feeling a little light-headed, and I want you to walk alongside him and make sure he is okay."

Michael nodded his head and grabbed Yussie by the elbow.

"And I want him to sit next to you, in my seat, where you can keep an eye on him."

"What?!" Yussie and Michael both said together.

"That's your seat, Rabbi!" Yussie objected. "I have my own seat, in the back."

"It wouldn't look right," Michael agreed.

The Rabbi stomped over to the two men and asserted, "Look, both of you. I need some time alone to prepare my sermon. Could you both just listen to your rabbi, for once, without complaining or arguing or second guessing?"

Yussie and Michael looked at each other, shrugged, and then left together. When they made their entrance into the synagogue, the rabbi heard the loud whispers of the congregation. The cantor cleared his throat, sounding like a bull horn, and silence ensued.

Rabbi Levi looked around and smiled.

Once again, he felt very close to his Creator, and once again, he felt honored to be an emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.