Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Thoughts about Yom Kippur and Forgiveness and Why We're Here

Before Yom Kippur I had an amazing insight. One of my kids apologized for something (really! it really happened!) and I forgave the child. I don't remember which kid, or what that person did, but I remember thinking, "Wow! I totally forgive this child even though I KNOW he or she will do this thing again and again! So THAT'S how Yom Kippur works!"

On Yom Kippur eve Rabbi Gedaliah Meyer spoke about missed spiritual opportunities. Rabbi Mati Wagner spoke before ne'ilah. He spoke about how the liturgy doesn't really focus on positive acts and mitzvot we neglect, but rather on wrong actions we do. He brought the Ba'al HaTanya who taught that every positive mitzvah we do lights a candle along the way. Each opportunity is literally once-in-a-lifetime. If you miss it, that's a little less light on the road. Scary. But discussing it with Rabbi Yitzhak Zuriel today in the van home from work, he had this insight: If you stand at the end of the road and look back at all the candles, the lights will merge together, even if there are gaps here and there. It will still be one long line of light. Pretty neat!

Last year I heard Rabbi Zuriel speak about the creation of the world. Rav Kook asks, "Why did G-d create the world?" We know that G-d is, by definition, perfect. But being perfect, there is one thing G-d cannot do (nothing to do with rocks). G-d cannot improve. So G-d created the world so that He could be a partner in the process of improvement! Rabbi Zuriel and I also discussed this tonight in the van. Rabbi Zuriel pointed out that keeping that in mind is really uplifting, because it says right away in the Torah that the world is tov (good). Even tov me'od (very good)! Telling someone they can improve doesn't necessarily mean the person wasn't good to begin with - it just means that the person can become (even) better. Wow!

So these things taken together mean that when we are feeling challenged we have to remember:
a) Hashem forgives us even though we keep blowing it. Hashem lets us try again.
b) Challenge is an opportunity, It might be the opportunity for a mitzvah or simply a stepping-stone for spiritual growth. It's even a unique opportunity and even though we can try again another time, this particular opportunity will never return.
c) Even if that particular opportunity will never return, if we catch enough of the opportunities we will still have a cohesive line of light representing our lives
d) We are fundamentally good. We are just trying to be better.

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