By Josh Silver
I remember being a kid and asking my parents why we had to fast on Yom Kippur. It’s funny, I remember asking the question but I don’t remember the answers that they gave. Perhaps it was something like, “Because that’s how we atone for our sins,” or even a simple, “Because that’s what Jews do.” Whatever the answer is, I feel like I’m finally old enough to have formed my own opinion on it. I think that we fast to make us focus. I noticed the sensation while at Beit T’Shuvah’s services this past Wednesday. When you’ve been fasting all day, your brain goes into a sort of slow down mode and you don’t really have the capacity to think about more than one thing at a time. In my case, I ended up focusing more on these services than I had in a long time.
Sitting there on the holiest day of the Jewish year, I realized something about myself—even though I had gotten sober and had been living a “good” life for the past year I still had things to atone for.
The distinction between “good” and “evil” is easy to make. Even a six year old could give you some sort of definition for these two categories. But I have begun to realize that “evil” deeds are not the most dangerous. Evil deeds are ones that are so heinous that a mental flag gets thrown up when we are about to commit that particular act. This makes them easier to avoid. The most dangerous acts aren’t the ones where we have malicious thought involved; they’re the ones that require no thought at all. In between “good” and “evil” is the third and most devious category—“bad.”
So this year no, I haven’t stolen any more or lied to my family or committed any unspeakable atrocities. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t fallen short of living a “good” life. It can be something as small as thoughtlessly excluding someone from your life to something as underhanded as sneaking out of services to have a cigarette. All of our actions have ripples and they don’t have to “evil” for them to be worthy of T’Shuvah.
Yom Kippur may be over but as Rabbi Mark has been teaching us all year round, it is never too late to make T’Shuvah. I ask you, the reader, to delve deep and ask yourself what every resident at Beit T’Shuvah must at some time ask themselves: What are the lies I tell myself? What are the things I’ve done because I thought, “nobody will notice” or “this isn’t important?” I realize that these are tough questions but what better time than now to ask them?
Happy New Year Everybody.