Thank God we have a home that's constantly filled with people -- children, their friends, Shabbos guests, our friends. We also have a house filled with wine glasses, dishes, platters, serving bowls (for Shabbos, for every day, for milk, for meat, for Passover) and decorative ceramics. The juxtaposition is not always a fortuitous one. Wine glasses are frequently broken (with adults more often the culprits than children). Dishes are cracked. Bowls are rendered unusable. The practical response to these situations is to
#1 Let it slide. They are only "things" after all; the relationships are more precious.
And #2, decide to buy all my crystal at Target as a more cost-efficient alternative.
But once a wine glass is broken, like Mother Goose's Humpty Dumpty, it can't be put back together again. Even if we really want to. Even if we vow to be more careful in the future. Even if we try really really hard. The spiritual response (you saw it coming) is to recognize the difference between our china and Yom Kippur. We can be made whole again. If we're really sorry. If we confess our mistakes. If we commit to never do it again. How can it be that a human being, who is so much more precious than the nicest Waterford, can be put back together again, and that Faberge egg can't?
Because teshuva, repentance, is a gift from the Almighty. It's a unique opportunity He's given us. A chance to start afresh. A chance to erase the blackboard (don't all third graders fight for that privilege!) One of my children was struggling with her teacher. Things were deteriorating rapidly. The school administration was about to be called in -- until the teacher stopped it all. "I've been reading a book on classroom discipline," she said. "I see I was in error. Let's act as if those first few weeks never happened and start all over again."
That's the opportunity of Yom Kippur.
It's not magic. We have to recognize and acknowledge our mistakes, which is frequently the hardest of all. (I pointed out to my daughter that it took tremendous courage for the teacher to admit she was wrong and how rare it is that anyone in any position of leadership does so). It's not a free pass. We have to commit never to engage in that action again.
But if we do, if really try, then like my young daughter and her teacher, we get to start anew. With the Almighty, with our friends and family, with ourselves.
Nicks and cracks on our souls are ultimately more expensive that those on our Mikasa dishes, but unlike our plates, these holes can be filled. It's the gift and opportunity of Yom Kippur.