I’m introspective – or at least trying my best to be. When my family was becoming Othodox Jews I was in the second grade. My favorite teacher, Rabbi Fishman, taught us about the meaning of the Ten Commandments. In my tiny maturing mind it made no sense to me that G-d would require us to love Him. It seemed absolutely absurd to me that G-d could demand us to have an emotion. How could I force myself to love someone I had never met? How could I make myself love a Being that allowed ugly into this world?
I vowed, at only 7 years of age, to only love G-d when I was good and ready. And only if I wanted to. (I was very stubborn back then, things have yet to change on that front!)
So I grew and I learned, but still this question bothered me. Yom Kippur would roll around and all the sudden Jews of all sorts of background decided to fall back in love with G-d and beg for his forgiveness – only to go and re-sin again the very next day. Some just hours later.
Slate wiped clean like a magna-doodle, only ready to be filled up again with gray.
As Yom Kippur comes upon us again I don’t want to be forced to love – I want to feel it. So, I am deciding something huge. I am choosing to love. Yes, CHOOSE to love. We as humans have choices. In Deuteronomy it states “Life and death I have set before you, the blessing and the curse. And you shall choose life…” If I have the ability to choose life, I certainly have the ability to choose love. All a blessing as no one wants to choose a curse!
Choosing to love G-d doesn’t mean you have to accept the whole package right off the bat, this was my misconception. The love can come in pieces. As a child and then even more so as an adolescent, we humans hate to be told what to do. We hate being told to clean our rooms, we hate being reminded to do our homework and we certainly hate being told who to love. But, as an adult and parent, I realized something – it is in my best interests to listen. I choose to love my husband, my children, my parents – but I don’t agree or even like some of the things they do. To set high moral standards is important, but I remember to set realistic high moral standards, attainable ones and stop pressuring myself or my surrounding to perfect. Flaws are beautiful, human gifts. Flaws are reminders to grow, to reflect and to pat myself on the back for progress well made and more to come.
To atone for my sins I am going to cut myself some slack this year. I am going to ask G-d to give me time to realize all of my flaws, to not push and shove my disappointment into one day and beat my chest to rid myself of my imperfections. But, instead I am going to try and make it a life-long quest to find my being, my best self and forgive the screw ups along the way. Someone pointed out to me today that G-d doesn’t need me to ask for his forgiveness. He’s A-Okay without it. He just puts this day out as a reminder to start the process again, don’t give up on improvement, reach my fullest potential or as full as I’m going to get in this lifetime and pass those sentiments along to the next generation.
So – no more questions on the tone of the day for me. It’s not somber, it’s not sad, Yom Kippur this year will be a day of Hope and Renewal and Reflection and Love.
May We All Be Inscribed.