The clock is ticking down and I’m not nearly far enough into the conversation.
Yom Kippur arrives tonight, culminating our ten-day ritual of celebration, introspection, and pleading, literally, for a new lease on life. The home stretch that begins at sundown includes all the stages of grief, plus fasting and a dozen hours of religious services.
At sundown tomorrow, according to tradition, we either are or aren’t sealed in the Book of Life for the coming year. Jews aren’t big on predestination, but this is an exception. As the earth spins into darkness tomorrow, the pressure will become palpable, notwithstanding any doubts I might hold about a literal “Book of Life.”
While the Ten Days of Awe are filled with rituals and prayers handed down across centuries, I tend to look at the process as a conversation with God. I’ve never seen prayer as a plea for a swag bag, but more as a discussion between me and whatever particle of God is always living inside me, waiting for me to shut up so that It can be heard. And when the Days of Awe begin, our conversation always starts with a rebuke. I open with the hope for another year and the still, small voice asks why.
“What do you mean, why?”
“I mean “why.” I gave you a reprieve last year and how did you use that gift?”
And the trap is sprung. A year ago, I apologized for my failings and asked for another chance, and I know now that I received that opportunity. But as soon as the holidays were over, life returned to normal and I’m sitting in services this year, pretty much apologizing for the same things I atoned for in 2021. And 2020. And 2019. And…you get the idea. In the conversation that matters most, at least according to our tradition, I really don’t have much to say.
If I had to boil it all down, my answer would be, “not enough.” I didn’t feel enough, smile enough, help enough, share enough, celebrate enough, comfort enough, laugh enough, savor the gift of life enough.
Or, maybe, my answer should be, “too much.” I worried too much, complained too much, hid too much, disconnected too much, insulated myself too much, and ignored the wonders before me too much. I received a gift one year ago and I barely opened the package.
That’s the most painful part of atonement to me. It’s not about all the scripture or liturgy. It’s the recognition of how much I lost, how much I simply gave up of the gift I was given. How terrible would it be I receive another year of opportunity and I squander it the same way I squandered so much in the year that’s now closed? I couldn't possibly achieve 100% of the potential for the year ahead, but I can absolutely bump up my performance if I get another turn at bat.
The conversation has continued over the past week, both within the synagogue and while walking on my way, incorporating all the aspects of values and life, people and possessions, and the greatest of gifts: time.
It’s both draining and invigorating, and it ends tomorrow night when the final shofar blast confirms that THE BOOK has been published and only one Being knows what’s in it.
The clock is ticking.
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.