Today’s daf (Ketubot 88a) informs us that debts can be collected even in a debtor’s absence due to the consideration שלא תנעול דלת בפני לווין – ‘that we do not lock the door in the face of borrows’. What this means is that were lenders to be unable to get their money back when a debtor is absent, they would likely decide that they would never again make their money available to borrowers. Consequently, in order to avoid ‘locking the door’ to borrowing, systems were established to ensure that lenders get back what they lend.
Reflecting on this teaching just two days away from Yom Kippur, I am reminded of a parallel phrase used by our Sages of שלא תנעול דלת בפני שבים – ‘that we do not lock the door in the face of those who wish to repent’ (or, as some reference it, שלא תנעול דלת בפני בעלי תשובה – ‘that we do not lock the door in the face of ba’alei teshuvah’). What this means is that we should not put impediments in place for those who decide to make amends or for those who wish to upgrade their spiritual lifestyle or religious observance.
However, while we – as individuals, as communities, and as a society – generally operate with the economic sensitivity of שלא תנעול דלת בפני לווין, we often don’t operate with the emotional and spiritual sensitivity of שלא תנעול דלת בפני שבים. For example, there are those who wish to make amends with others but are reluctant to do so because they suspect that the person to whom they wish to apologise will not be so welcoming for them to do so. Beyond this, there are those who wish to upgrade their spiritual lifestyle or religious observance who hold themselves back from doing so for fear of the unsupportive and, in some instances, even snide remarks of others. And what is the basis for those fears? From the less than welcoming way in which some ba’alei teshuvah are treated in certain communities.
Given this, as we approach Yom Kippur, let us commit ourselves not to lock doors in the face of those who wish to repent, as well as those who have already begun a journey of chazara b’teshuva, and let us commit ourselves to build communities that celebrate growth and self-improvement.