Rabbi Dovid Saks
Yom Kippur 5775
The days from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur are called the Ten Days of Repentance. The basic idea of repentance is to effect positive change in our lives. It is interesting that the word ‘change’ is a homograph. Change can refer to the change in one’s pocket, and change can refer to changing one’s position, character or behavior.
These two definitions of change are complete opposites. Change, when referring to coins, is something you keep available to feed the meter, buy a soda or a candy bar. Usually you do not keep an exact calculation of change because it is insignificant.
However, when we talk about effecting change in one’s behavioral patterns or spiritual conduct it is a difficult task and a real challenge.
I was thinking that perhaps both definitions of change can be linked together.
How does one earnestly alter his bad habits? I think that gradual and incremental change is the most effective and enduring approach.
If one places his small change – the coins from his pocket – into a bowl and then adds to it each evening, what accumulates after several months is not small change anymore. Now one can buy something substantial with the collection.
In the same way, one who works on subtle small changes in his life, over time, will nourish and cultivate lasting positive changes.
Another lesson can be gleaned from small change.
When one puts a few coins of change in their pocket, chances are, it makes some noise, giving off a jingling sound. However, as more change is added into the pocket the sound diminishes and slowly fades away.
The same thing happens when one makes some change in their life, whether it is in the spiritual realm or something else. At first it makes some noise. People notice that he is not following his old patterns. There may even be a buzz in the air, “Did you notice that person is modifying his behavior?”
But after a while when one’s small changes are consistent and dependable, the ‘noise or buzz’ emitting from those who may be skeptical or cynical about the change, slowly peters away and the social pressures slowly ease as well.
In truth, there are changes that do not have to make any noise at all. When examining the myriad of spiritual options that one has to embrace, there are numerous ways that are only known to the person himself and G-d.
Here are some examples: Being mindful that G-d exists, Who knows and is in control over all happenings. Holding back from saying something derogatory about another person. Scanning food items to see if they have the requisite kosher symbols.
One last idea about change: At international airports you will find a kiosk with a sign, “Change.” Of course this is where one changes one country’s currency to another. Having the local currency permits one to purchase and get around with ease.
A basic and fundamental result of one’s repentance due to changing one’s errant ways is the ease of mind and internal comfort that it affords him as he goes about his daily routine.
Yom Kippur is a day that everyone takes seriously. It is a day of reflection on our past and when we eye our future. It is when we can earnestly think and reflect on changing our habits. Because we are all doing it together and being part of a congregation we all recite the lists of confessions for our sins in one unified voice, we are basically all on the same page. What is essential is that we take the communal and personal inspirationally charged momentum of Yom Kippur and hold on to it implementing it into our lives. Positive change is a most beneficial enhancement to one’s being and surroundings!
Wishing you a meaningful and inspirational Yom Kippur!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family