Erev Yom Kippur. It’s only a few hours now until the last day of these ever so special days. The Ten Days of Repentance. Only about 36 hours left in total.
I know that my ten days have been really hectic. Between work (and travelling to and from it), more work, lots of other work, all of the menial run of the mill daily stuff, trying to spend time with my wife and family… who has any time left to spend on spiritual perfection?
I’m running ahead in my life but personally I’m in neutral!
Have YOU ever felt like this before? Is it just me? I think not!
Let’s ask another poignant question.
Is this the only time of the year that I feel this to be true, or is it just because we know that these are the “Days of Awe” and we are, therefore, more aware of this phenomenon? Or is most of my life like this?
I know that I am “middle aged” and that I am, therefore, burdened by many responsibilities and have more demands on my time than an older or a younger man, but the truth of the matter is — that’s just fiction. I cannot remember a time during which life hasn’t been hectic. When I was a young married man I had a full day, when I was a young father I had a full day and now that I am a middle-aged father of several kids (and students), guess what? I have a full day!
The only time I ever really didn’t have a full day was when I was a teenager. But do you know what? If you would have asked me at that age I would have probably told you that I was strapped for time as well, even though I wasn’t doing anything of importance! In truth I remember my grandparents and their friends living in the retirement homes in Florida who were living, in their opinion (and truthfully, that’s the only one that counts in your life) very busy lives. Everyone is always just so busy!
But let’s stop and think for a moment: what am I so busy with? But let’s ask a deeper, more fundamental question: Is what I am busy with consistent with my life goals?
I have yet to meet the person who aspires to be mediocre, yet despite that fact very many people seem to be wallowing in exactly that: mediocrity. Why is that?
Says the Messilat Yesharim in chapter 1: because we don’t keep our eye on the ball! However from the opening statement of Rav Chaim Lutzatto zt”l there is an even deeper thought to consider: Do we really know WHAT our life’s goals are in the first place? In chapter one he teaches that the most fundamental thing that a person has to keep in mind is where his life is supposed to lead to! The way to know that is to ask yourself WHY I am here and what is my purpose in life (we have a couple of articles on that that can be found here, here, here and here)? Only when we know that – can I know if I am, indeed, on my way there.
If you’ve got a map and you’ve got a compass but you have no destination – what’s the point of the map and compass? But if you’ve got the map, the compass and the destination, but you never ever check to see if you’re going the right way then there is a certain pointy hat with a five letter word on it (it starts with D) that should be worn for the occasion (or the duration).
It is for this reason that our sages, ob”m, (see Sefer haChinuch mitzvah 310 and 313) that the days of Rosh HaShanna and Yom Kippur are so important. Rosh HaShanna teaches us that we need to take stock of our lives, (preferably done before being judged) and Yom Kippur teaches us that we have the ability to change, to unburden ourselves from the guilt and the shame of having done wrong.
The lowest common denominator between these two things is that we have to sit down with ourselves for a little while and actually spend some of our precious time on ourselves.
This Yom Kippur stop, think, get your bearings in life (Are you who you want to be? Are you going in the direction of your life’s plan?). It’s the only way to ensure that you stop going full gas with your life all the while remaining in neutral!