He came to me full of remorse and contrition. He came to me humbled and humiliated, desperate and in pain. "I know Rosh Hashanah is coming. I've made a serious mistake."
"I'm a happily married man but I was going through some struggles at work. I began discussing the situation with a female colleague and she was very sympathetic and helpful. We got into the habit of talking everyday. She was attractive and engaging and the relationship deepened. I didn't realize we'd gone too far -- there was no physical contact -- and until she asked me to leave my wife. And then I ran -- as far as I could in the opposite direction. I need to do teshuva (repentance)."
We cried together. And we reviewed the steps of tshuva. We made a commitment to erect fences to prevent similar errors in the future. And we talked about gratitude.
Gratitude? How does gratitude fit in? Remorse, contrition, repentance…but gratitude?
Gratitude that the mistake didn't destroy his life, his marriage, his children.
Gratitude that it went no further.
Gratitude that he got this wake-up call.
Gratitude that he has the opportunity to change.
Gratitude that he recognizes the opportunity and plans to take full advantage of it.
Gratitude that Yom Kippur is coming and he can wipe the slate clean and start afresh.
In the midst of our soul searching and chest beating, and honey cake baking, how many of us focus on gratitude? What an amazing opportunity we've been granted! At whatever our age, however educated or uneducated, weak or strong, we can all do teshuva and begin again.
We all have had experiences of coming close to the precipice -- physically, emotionally, morally, psychologically. We all have experiences of temptations we've almost succumbed to, of ethical lines we've almost crossed, taboos we've almost trampled.
But something stopped us. Something (or Someone?) stopped us from self-destruction, from a lifetime of guilt, from hurting others.
What do we owe the Almighty for that? How many times a day do we breathe a sigh of relief and say thank you? Thank you for catching me before all was lost. Thank you for stopping me before my family suffered. Before I embarrassed myself and my people. Thank you!
And then we recognize our need to change; to work on ourselves, on our relationship with our spouse, our children. How awful to be on our deathbeds with unresolved relationships, with siblings we don't speak to, with estranged parents. Thank you for the chance to repair and renew our relationships now.
A wake-up call is a gift. Awareness of the need to grow and change is a gift. And having the tools and support to do make those changes is yet another gift. Thank you for giving me a network of teachers, friends and family who are rooting for me, who want my good, who give me the space I need to grow and a gentle shove when I am stagnant. Do they know how much I appreciate them?
And then there's Yom Kippur. Sometimes we're so busy focusing on the fast (and the break fast!) that we forget the meaning of the day. We're dressed in white. We're angels. We're pure and sin free. The past is gone. That pain, that guilt, that torment is erased. That merits a cosmic thank you note.
The Almighty deserves our gratitude for the greatest gift of all -- life -- and the guidelines to maneuver our way through it. Yes we'll make mistakes and we'll fall down, but we have the greatest cheerleader on earth shouting encouragement along the way. Let's be grateful for the ability to choose and that our choices have consequences that keep us real.
So for giving us the opportunity to shape our lives -- and reshape our lives -- and make mistakes and start again, Thank You!