The Best Day of the Year
It’s too close to Yom Kippur for me to write you without thinking rather sentimentally about how much each of you are part of my life. I won’t go on and on, but Neve doesn’t let you remain alone-the other girls and the teachers become part of your higher self and your aspirations, and the same thing takes place for anyone who spends much time with you. The teachers are certainly changed; we become deeper, more spiritually informed, and more aware.
Yom Kippur is the best day of the year. I realize that for some of you this sounds like a typo. No one likes to think about failure. By the nature of things, reading the confession (VIduy) five times over the course of the holiday forces you to revisit places that you no longer wish to know. What makes Yom Kippur a celebration is that you no longer have to carry the burden of All That Stuff. The mistakes of the past are there; by and large the past is indelible. Yom Kippur is a time of miracle, a time in which the present defines the past rather than visa versa. The person you are, at least for this holiest of all days, is the person who you want to be. You have to be willing to work for the gift Hashem gives on this day. That means being honest enough to face your past and disassociate from it, and to regret the damage it may have done you. The most important part is The Plan. You have to be able to envision yourself as you want to be, and to figure out steps that are small enough to work and big enough to get you somewhere. The reality is that Hashem on His side is willing to take the burden of Then on Himself, once you have done the work you need to do. The way to draw His presence to you is to keep up what you have already done on Rosh Hashanah. You relinquished not only control, but the desire for control. This can be a completely new way to live.
My friend Helena isn’t what anyone would normally call a control freak. She doesn’t demand that everyone vote for her candidate, use her detergent, or arrive on time to her Shabbos table. Most of her numerous friends, and all of her even more numerous acquaintances see her as one of the most relaxed people they know. We were talking the other day, and she told me that she knows the truth. She wants life to flow on her terms; no surprises. Thank G-d, she found her husband, Shimon, without much grief or disappointment. Their life is blessedly normal. Even so, when Things Happen she falls apart. So far, she hasn’t had to face anything major, and she is wise enough to know it. There is the Other Stuff. The plumber who didn’t come erev a three day Yom Tov. The orthodontist who doesn’t take their insurance even though his secretary assured her that they do. Her mother-in-law who decided against going to Florida after all, and has alternatively planned to make an extended visit using the opportunity to explain to Shimon and Helena (still) again why they should relive her life rather than stay with their observant lifestyle. None of this would make the History of the Twenty First Century chapter in a textbook. This year Helena recognized that she was unwilling to bring Hashem’s plans for her into her tightly written narrative. Once she let go, she was able to redefine not just the specifics of her life, but what life is meant to be. This took longer to do than it does for me to write about it.
What does Helena and her life have to do with you?
You already declared Hashem as your King-not just The King. Once you did this, you are free of your need to have Things Work. Things are as they are; and are meant of offer you opportunities of renew your faith in G-d, and to bring light to dark places, including your own heart. The next step is turning the bad moments into something more, something that can draw you closer rather than farther from your life’s purpose.
Try something new.
Instead of asking yourself what you regret, ask yourself why you regret. If you regret speaking unkindly to the plumber or to your friend or your mother in law, ask yourself why you regret it. If you find yourself justifying the deed (I didn’t really mean it etc.) you haven’t really come to grips with why you would have liked things to be different. You may have to look more deeply, but you will probably find that you regret making life more painful than it has to be, or that you were a source of darkness (for yourself too) rather than a source of light. Once you are in this new, usually unexplored territory, you are able to let you.
Enjoy the best of all days, the day that your fasting and praying open doors that no human being could ever open on their own.
Have a gmar chatima tovah, and a great, joyous and unforgettable Yom Kippur!