Yom Kippur is "Judgment Day," and there is a prayer that repeats over and over again throughout the many services of the holiday called Vidui, or "The Confession." Every year when I go to shul for Yom Kippur, my heart beats a little faster when the Vidui comes up in the liturgy. I rise to my feet and pound my chest with my fist, while uttering the long list of sins that I may or may not have been guilty of committing. I once heard that the point is to confess to the entire list because even if I didn't do it, someone in my community did and I am just as much responsible for their sins as my own.
As someone who has worked to make transformative change in his life over the last 10 years, I would love to be able to stand up on this Yom Kippur and say I have nothing left to confess, but that would never be possible.
Every year I come to contemplate and confess my wrongs and just like millions of other Jews, every year I know that I'll be back again next year. I won't ever be perfect in the coming year and I'll always be guilty of something that I promised to never do again.
No matter how hard I beat my chest on Yom Kippur, my inner demons still remain. My story of losing over 100 pounds, building a successful career, paying off thousands in debt and finding true love is not about leaving the "old me" behind and forging ahead as a completely new soul. Instead, it's about figuring out the right routines and strategies to keep that negative side that was dragging me down in check.
When I show up for Yom Kippur, dressed in traditional white, I bring all of my soulful and sinful self to pray. There is still a very large 300-pound man inside of me. All he wants to do is sit on the couch and eat cookies. He doesn't care about putting his health first. There is still a very lazy, unmotivated college student inside of me, and he doesn't want to stop playing video games to finish his work. He doesn't care that people might be depending on him. And there is still a snarky teenager, ready to make jokes at the expense of others' feelings.
Judaism uses the word tshuvah to mean repentance, but tshuvah really comes from the word for "return." When I think about the metaphor of returning, I might leave a place behind, but I still have to bring my whole self with me. I have to come clean about who I was and what I have done and bring the lessons from my mistakes. All of that informs my new perspective so that I may return to my true path. The path that I would like to think leads me down the road to a sweet new year.
Shana Tova Tikateivu -- may you have a good year and be inscribed in the Book of Life.