The Yom Kippur Dare

September 27, 2011

5 min read


Do I ask God for another chance, a chance I know I don’t deserve?

Yom Kippur is here again and I am afraid.

I am not supposed to be afraid. I am supposed to be contemplative, thoughtful and driven to change. I am supposed to feel the privilege of Yom Kippur, the joy of standing before God, our Father and King, who wants to hear us and find us worthy. And I feel all of these things, I do. But mostly, deep down in my soul where the truth lies, I am afraid. The day of reckoning is here again. I have examined myself and I do not find myself worthy.

We are taught that we should find comfort in the thought of God as a loving parent. But this scares me too. Because I am a parent and even in my deep and abiding love for my children I have been snippy and snappish and angry and jealous and spiteful sometimes. I have fallen far short of the standard of mercy, kindness and righteousness that I expected of myself.

Our Sages say that God is our King and we are his servants and I am afraid. Because the world is full of violence and lewdness and inhumanity and its King must not like that.

Last year I stood in shul, dressed in white, and made all kinds of promises. With tears in my eyes and a hole in my heart I stood before my creator and I swore to be different, to be better. To be kinder and gentler, more patient, less judgmental. I meant every word. But as I look back at the year that passed I wonder: How many lies did I tell unknowingly, unwillingly as I stood before God on the holiest day of the year? And does He hold it against me?

This year has been filled with wake up calls. Yet how many resolutions have I kept?

This year has brought the violent and sickening murders of the innocents: of the Fogel family, of Leiby Kletzky, of Rabbi Abuchatzeira. Thousands have been lost to typhoons and earthquakes and illness and war. Like every year, this one has been filled with messages and wake up calls. And yet, how many changes have I implemented, how many resolutions have I kept?

I can tell you right now, not many.

What happened? How did I lose the pure resolve of my Yom Kippur self? It’s simple. Life wore me down, mundanely, insidiously. The mornings started too early and the nights ended too late. There was too much laundry. There were too many dishes. I got cranky and bored and uninspired. I fell from my resolve and landed back in my old ways. My white garments were muddied. My high minded promises turned slowly into lies.

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I did not do what I said I’d do. And if I know it, He knows it too. So, I am afraid. If I promise again, will He believe me again? Do I dare ask for another chance? A chance I know I don’t deserve?

The answer is yes. I do dare. Because if there is one thing that I’ve learned as a parent it’s that a heartfelt apology from a beloved child goes a long way to calming one’s anger. When they stand before us, repentant and sad, we remember again how small they are, how young, how hard they try. Our hearts turn to them and we forgive.

And so every year when the candles are lit and we are all dressed in white, I sit down to pray. I whisper, with sincerity and heartfelt emotion. I am sorry. I am unworthy, but I am truly sorry. Please, give me another chance.

Although I am the only one talking it feels like a holy conversation. I say, yes I sinned but I didn’t mean to. I fell as all people fall because we are flawed. We are petty and small and wounded. You know that – You created us! And I say, although we have not done everything right, we have not done everything wrong and the world is hard and impure. We struggle to maintain our humanity, our morality and our mission. But our redemption is in the struggle. We try. If we fail again and again, at least we try.

I stare down at the beautiful words on the page until they blur in front of my teary eyes. I confess; I am damaged, I am imperfect. I am angry and deceitful and jealous and proud. But God, You Who knows the truth of all things must surely know that I am sorry. All of Klal Yisrael is sorry today. And the sins we committed were from weakness and not evil. I whisper to God, If we have been ugly, we have been beautiful too. We cried true tears for the murdered, for the sick and the injured in Klal Yisrael. We felt the unity of Jews who are truly one family, children of Abraham, our Forefather. We prayed for a better world, we created lending gemachs and prayer groups, and Torah classes. We tried to teach our children to be better than ourselves.

So this year as I stand before You, God, please look into my heart as only You can. Don’t look at last year. Don’t look at yesterday. Look at today. What I say right now, I mean, truly. I am sorry. I repent my sins. I fully intend to turn from them and not to do them again. If I was unworthy this year then it’s because I am small and imperfect. But You are great and perfect. You are God and not constrained by the bonds of mortality. My Father, My King, I am sorry. See my smallness and love me anyway.

Forgive me and give me another chance. Forgive us all and give us another chance.

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