Change, Renewal, and Rebirth by Gevura Davis
We are all members of a large club, 7.125 billion strong, of people who make mistakes. Sometimes contemplating this can terrify me, but I feel a bit more normal knowing that at least I’m not the only one (small consolation, but it helps.)
Every year Yom Kippur comes along and, quite honestly, it’s a bit frightening to face myself in one huge (daylight) mirror with nowhere to hide. See, most of the year, I’m really good at excuses. Sure, I might mess up at this or not measure up at that, but hey, I’m basically a good girl, right?! try to be a moral Jew and a law-abiding citizen.
But there is one day of the year when all the white lies I tell myself to help me feel good don’t quite measure up. Because when I’m honest with myself, I know I shouldn’t have spoken badly about her (no matter how much I’m sure she has wronged me more), and I shouldn’t have yelled so much and made my kids feel guilty (no matter how tired I was and how annoying they were being), and I shouldn’t have made my husband feel bad about himself and exasperated (even though technically he started it), and I really should have been sure that I gave my 10 percent to tzedakah (even though I just moved and the bills are piling up), and … the list goes on and on.
The big day is coming up, and I know I will be standing before G-d, my Creator, Who truly knows everything. Everything! And all of the excuses will disappear and the future of my year and my life are wide open in the Book of Life. If I stop for 5 minutes to truly meditate on this thought, I am humbled and awed. The Creator of this huge galaxy, Who maintains the loyal bright sun every morning throughout the sky and ensures the miracle of childbirth for 356,000 babies in the world each day, cares about my actions and deeds. This Creator created a complex moral code and guide for my life called the Torah, and He asks me to check in how I’m doing each Yom Kippur. G-d is asking me to judge how I think I’m doing.
So as I’m standing there pounding on my chest in synagogue confessing each of my darkest secrets and challenges, I realize I can either look at it as scary and threatening or as an opportunity. Because I believe not only is G-d All-Powerful but G-d is also All-Loving. These rules and boundaries were created with love so I and my fellow humans can live the best life possible. Each year, I am provided with the opportunity to face myself and really see what’s there. Underneath all of the mistakes and gossip and lies and things I am not proud of, and behind the hurt and pain and anger, is the best ME. I am uncovering layers of myself that are clouded by my negative actions. As I confess them, I am peeling them away so I can reveal my true essence, which is the desire to bring goodness into the world.
This Yom Kippur I’m planning on focusing on this process as freeing, liberating, empowering and cathartic. While it’s true there is a lot I am ashamed even to myself about, there is always a path out of those mistakes. Our negativity doesn’t define us, our virtuous attempts to grow and make changes does. And this is how Yom Kippur can become the gift of hope. The day that I spend in Synagogue thinking about not just everything I did wrong, but all the ways I want to be better. How I can grow. How I can live the life that I imagine for myself. How I can get connected with the part of my soul that yearns to be better and do make something meaningful out of my life.
It’s an incredible way to start the year. An energy of change, renewal, and rebirth.
I saw that Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook, posted a Shanah Tovah message on his page. He quoted the English translation of the Hebrew prayer “Mi Sheberach” we read over the Torah to pray for healing. He said that he felt empowered by the expression “help us find the courage to make my our lives a blessing.” This is my blessing to each of you and to myself. May we all be sealed into the Book of Life for another turn around the sun in good health, with a passion and desire to grow into our best selves.