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Yom Kippur: Our Second Chance

May 9, 2009 | by Emuna Braverman

Change is possible.

"My teacher said that Yom Kippur is the happiest day of the year," chirps my son. Repeatedly. It's funny but that hasn't been my experience. I'm frequently tired and hungry, I have a headache, and Yom Kippur feels like an endurance test. Not to mention the long list of sins for which I am pounding my chest and trying to do teshuva, to repent and return. So many mistakes... Of course I lost my temper (numerous times). Of course I was egotistical (even this article is all about me!). Of course I spoke lashon hara (not about you, don't worry) or without thinking or too frivolously (okay, I'm taking on a vow of silence). The chest pounding continues. And I feel diminished.

I think my Yom Kippur mistake (yet another one!) has been to only focus on the past. To rehearse that list of sins and allow myself to sink into it. It's a recipe for discouragement and depression. The whole point of atonement is the future. Tomorrow is going to be different from today.

We want to start the New Year with a clean slate. Starting afresh, anything is possible. This is the opportunity of Yom Kippur. If we immerse ourselves in the day, we aren't bogged down by our physicality and we can see through to our soul's goals and potential. The Almighty is offering us a new beginning.

People frequently say "If I had it to do over again I would...." Yom Kippur is that chance.

What one change or choice that I make this year would have the most profound impact on my life?

It's true that not all choices can be remade. We have families, friends, commitments. But within that context lie many opportunities to choose anew. To choose not to let the same old things bother us or weigh us down. To choose to respond in new ways to old issues. (Frequently in our marriages, both sides haul out the same ineffective response to every situation, never recognizing that a response that has never worked previously won't work now!) On Yom Kippur, we're angels, we take flight. We soar above the mundane. We need to hold on to that experience when we return to earth.

In order to preserve that experience, we first need to appreciate it. We need to savor it. We need to value the opportunity. We need to recognize what a gift we've been given.

Secondly, we need to make a choice. What will we write on that clean slate? This Yom Kippur I'm asking myself (and anyone that dares come into contact with me) a question my husband is asking his class (and anyone that dares come into contact with him): What one change or choice that I make this year would have the most profound impact on my life? Then I'm making a plan to implement that change. Without a plan the thought remains in the heavens, back with the angels, while I stand alone here on this earth. I know I'll have only partial success. I'll have both tremendous breakthroughs and tremendous setbacks.

Yet for that one moment this year on Yom Kippur, I will know that change is possible.

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