Most observers agree that President Obama’s attempt to push the reset button with respect to America’s relationship with Russia, Egypt and Iran, to name but a few, has not been successful (this is actually a bipartisan opinion!).
One of the main reasons for this failure is his lack of understanding of who he is dealing with. He didn’t really know his adversary and so his strategy didn’t mesh with the facts on the ground.
This may seem like a strange segue but this is actually an important message for all of us for Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is our individual chance to push the reset button in our relationship with the Almighty. Perhaps we’ve been distant. Perhaps we’ve been uncaring. Or oblivious. Or self-absorbed. Or distracted. You name it.
For reasons too numerous and varied to list, our relationship with God is not exactly what we’d like it to be. So the Almighty gives us a gift. He gives us Yom Kippur, a chance to wipe the slate clean and start afresh.
And like the President, we need to know who our adversary is and we need to develop a strategy.
People with substance abuse issues are often asked to identify triggers – do you pass a bar on the way home from work every day? – and then plot ways to avoid them – like taking a different, although possibly less direct, route home.
This is our job in preparation for the holiday. What are our triggers? Our stumbling blocks? What are the places, situations and perhaps even people that we should avoid? Maybe we need to stay away from tempting bakeries (the simplest test), wild parties and friends who love to gossip.
Who are our adversaries? Are they people who try to sabotage our growth so that they won’t feel guilty about their lack? Are they philosophies (and people who espouse them) that suggest that financial success and power are the ultimate goals whatever the personal cost? Is it our body that clamors for sleep, food and the satisfaction of our physical desires? Is it our ego which filters all experiences and relationships through a “me, me, me” prism?
We need to identify our challenges before we can confront them. We need to plot our attack – avoid some triggers, battle some adversaries, destroy some enemies.
And we need a plan. What will I do the next time the conversation deteriorates into nasty gossip? The next time I’m tempted to fight with my husband just to prove I’m right? The next time I’m about to raise my voice to my children in frustration? The next time my hostess puts a piece of chocolate cake on my plate (“It’s just a sliver” she says!).
I need a plan or I won’t succeed. I need to define my goals or I won’t succeed. I need to be serious or I won’t succeed.
The idea of pushing the reset button has become a political joke. But that doesn’t mean the ideal isn’t real. If we are sincerely sorry, if we truly regret our actions, if we really want to return to a deeper and more lasting relationship with our Creator, then He says, “Great! I’ve been waiting for you. Just take one step in my direction and I’ll meet you the rest of the way.”
Yom Kippur is truly an opportunity to push the reset button on our relationship with God, to rectify the mistakes of past and to inscribe a whole new future. Hopefully we’ll know how to make the most of it.