It must be strange and a little disorienting to be the editor of a cooking magazine. Due to the nature of deadlines, you are preparing the Thanksgiving issue, with its fall atmosphere, in the middle of the sweltering heat of the summer. It must be difficult to get into the mood of crackling fires and roasting turkeys.
I feel the same way thinking about Yom Kippur before Rosh Hashana (due to the nature of writing deadlines!). I've been so busy concentrating on the meaning of Rosh Hashana and how I want to use the days that there doesn't seem to be any space left over for Yom Kippur.
Yet, ironically, if I actually think about Yom Kippur first, it gives me perspective on the ways I should grow on the New Year. The very areas where I pound my chest the hardest are the exact spots I need to focus on, the unique challenges to my character.
Yom Kippur is both intimidating and hopeful. It's intimidating because we've each got a lot of work to do. It's intimidating because we don't know what the next year will bring. It's intimidating because we feel so dependent and powerless.
Yet it's also hopeful. On most fast days I won't let my younger children have any treats. "No candy when it's a sad day for the Jewish people." But Yom Kippur is a Yom Tov and they happily munch away. It's a hopeful day because forgiveness is possible. It's a hopeful day because we can wipe the slate clean. It's a hopeful day because we can start again. And instead of feeling powerless, the choice is up to us.
We do have to take small steps but we need to think big.
It's the gift the Almighty gives us on Yom Kippur, the opportunity to begin anew. We all know the destructive power of labeling. A teenager who wants a fresh start frequently needs to switch schools, so trapped is he by his prior image with his peers and teachers, by earlier impressions and prejudices.
On Yom Kippur, we can make that fresh start without going anywhere (even to shul!) It's an internal change and it's an unbelievable opportunity. Whatever our age, whatever our mistakes, we have a "get out of jail" card. It's just not quite free. We have to work at it. We have to want to change. (Like the psychologist's famous light bulb.)
Our rabbis caution us that we need to take small steps, that if we try to change too much we will get discourage and ultimately change nothing. We do have to take small steps but we need to think big. We need to believe we can do it.
We can do it. We do not need to be burdened by the mistakes of the past, by the anxieties and fears that hold us back. We are powerful because the choice is ours. We are powerful because the possibilities are endless. We are powerful because the Almighty wants us to grow. We are powerful because we just have to ask and He will help.
On Rosh Hashana, we humble ourselves before our King. We subject our will to His. Then on Yom Kippur the Almighty raises us up. Now we are ready to go back into the world. Now we are ready to battle our dragons. Now we have the energy to grow and change. Now we have the support of the King of kings.
May the Almighty hear all our prayers this year, those of our individual hopes and those of our collective dreams, and may we be inscribed for good.