Yom Kippur is the best.
There isn’t any way that a human being could give this kind of a gift. I am sure that there were many times in your life that you realized that it’s your choice whether to forgive someone who is genuinely wrong, or to hold on to negative feelings. I am also sure that you made the right choice a significant amount of times when you had to choose who to be. You made yourself closer to being the kind of person that you are comfortable living with. On the outside nothing changes. If someone reneged on a loan, you don’t magically have money in your account just because you forgave them. If someone humiliated you by sharing parts of your past that you wanted to keep private, you can’t erase the information that has now been registered forever in the minds of anyone who heard the “news”.
You, like me and all the rest of us, live in time, and time moves only in one direction, forward. The past is untouchable.
Living in time keeps you stuck in Now. Not only is the past untouchable, it is also imminently forgettable. You unlearn lessons almost as fast as you learn them. The future seems more real than the present at times. I don’t know how many of you are worriers, but those of you who are know what I mean. If you can spend an uneasy night weighing out possible responses to situations that may or may not arise, you have been there.
Sin flourishes when you forget everything you ever picked up along the way. When you were in pre-school you knew that each person you encounter is a mirror. If you are friendly, he will be too. How come you forgot it when your body language and facial expression told someone you care about that they lost the game? You learned ages ago that you can count on Hashem to make the sun rise in the east and set in the west. How come you found yourself saying things like, “This isn’t going to work. It’s time to daven”, as though putting your trust in Him is a necessary but clearly desperate last resort?
Shabbos and the holidays let you step back enough to get out of jail. Shabbos tells you that there is an ultimate beginning, and that the first thing that G-d created was the spiritual light that will be revealed in the future. The Torah says that Hashem made it possible for us to measure time by creating the potential for days, months and years, so that we can hold on to the signs and times of meeting that we experienced in the past.
Yom Kippur is an entirely different story. It isn’t about the past. Its message is not “Okay, we can forget that this ever happened.”
In fact when Hashem forgave us on the very first Yom Kippur, He didn’t say that at all. He still recalls what we did so many years ago, because in so many ways we are scarred by our choices. He said something far more meaningful. “I love you no less. I love you so much, that even this terrible betrayal didn’t change anything”. Only Hashem can erase the past enough to say this with integrity. You will soon be standing before Him and experiencing this great love. He told you how to open yourself to returning to Him. He also told you how to make the most of this sacred time.
One way is by doing something only humans can do. Chazal say that eating the day before Yom Kippur with the intent of glorifying Hashem, is as holy as fast the next day. The Arizal explains that when you eat, make a brachah on the food, what you are doing is making Hashem’s creative presence more concrete in a world that full of concealment. You are undoing the damage that living in the world as it is creates.
The next day you fast.
No more dealing with the world and its kaleidoscopic Balagan (an untranslatable Israeli word for something between chaos and mess). You let go of the five types of bonds that hold you down. You go back to being simple. Just the real you, not the body that you wear full time as your best friend and best disguise. You are like the Kohen Gadol who would enter the holiest place on earth with the simplest of all clothing.
No statement. Just you and your deepest will, which for all of us (believe it or not) is to echo Hashem’s unending love for us.
No more barriers of yesterday. That’s what tshuvah is all about.
No more forgetting who you are, or what you want , because you have get to work, or put up supper, or answer the phone.
No more thinking that the keys to your future are in your hands.
Just simplicity and purity.