Being Judged by Amy Lefcoe (City Leader, Norfolk, Virginia)
I had to appear before a judge this summer for the first time ever. Back in May, I got a ticket for “following too closely” when I accidentally bumped the car in front of me in stop and go traffic on a Friday afternoon (of course). Thankfully, she dismissed the charge but I have to say that the time leading up to the court appearance was a bit harrowing. Many things had gone through my mind. What if she asked me something I couldn’t answer? What if I got so nervous that my mind went blank and I couldn’t speak? What if somehow I incriminated myself? What if after everything, she still found me guilty?
I was very careful with my choice of clothing that day. I stayed clear of bold or fashionable and went for understated and respectful. I’m pretty sure I even skipped the perfume. As someone who’s usually ten minutes late for everything (it’s at the top of my “things to work on for 5776 “ list), I left for the courthouse in plenty of time. I met my lawyer there and we sat down for a few minutes to discuss the details. I also brought photos of both cars after the accident along with the ticket itself and any other relevant paperwork they had sent me.
A lot of emotional energy went into the days leading up to my court appearance. Of course I wanted to win but I wanted the judge to know that this was an accident and I was sorry. I’m really a good driver and a good person, trying to navigate not only the city roads but the grand highway of life. I wanted compassion and understanding from a person who doesn’t know me and hopefully will never see me again.
The month of Elul has arrived and I find myself in familiar territory. My court date is coming and I need to get ready. This time there’s a lot more at stake than my driving record. Now, it’s about what kind of a year I’ll have for the next three hundred and sixty five days AND am I even worthy of being in this new world that Hashem is about to create. With this kind of intensity, why are the butterflies in my stomach not nearly as bad as they were last month? On the contrary, I feel hopeful and excited.
First of all, I know that G-d loves me. I know this because of all the kindness He showers me with day in and day out. He has given me a wonderful family, good friends, a washing machine that starts every time I push the button and a very comfortable bed to crawl into every night when I’m completely exhausted. His kindness is in the taste of that delicious chocolate cake I ate over Shabbat and in the scent of the basil that I pick (with permission) from my neighbor’s vegetable garden.
I see His love for me through hashgacha pratis (His Divine Supervision in my life). It’s not random or coincidence when I walk smack into an old, dear friend who I’ve lost touch with, in a Las Vegas hotel lobby. It’s Hashem’s hand, moving pieces around for the sake of my pleasure and happiness. He is my judge this time around and He is rooting for me.
So now is the time of great self- introspection in preparation for Rosh Hashana. I must take advantage of this very powerful month that is filled with the spiritual energy I need to succeed. Every day I will take out my notebook (even if it’s just for ten minutes) and work on figuring out where I was in 5775 and where I want to be in 5776. I will consider my relationships and how I treated the people around me. Can I do better this year? How about my mitzvah observances? Did I yearn to do mitzvot and did I do them with alacrity? After all, performing mitzvot is how I express my love for Hashem. If I do them by rote, what does that say about my relationship with G-d? We all have our special life’s purpose in this world. Do I know what mine is and am I living it to the fullest?
I am preparing the file that I will bring to my next court date. It will be filled with important information to make the case that, while I’ve made mistakes, I can and want to improve. I want to change for myself because of my strong desire to experience the kind of joy that only transcendence can bring. I want to be a better wife, mom, daughter and sister for the people I love because it’s what they deserve. I want to do more to help change this world. But most of all, I want Hashem to know that I understand that this is serious business. I will examine, acknowledge and commit to improving, with His help, the way I live my life. Then I will be ready to show up in court on Rosh Hashana and stand before the one true Judge, my Father in Heaven.