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Oakville Rabbi: Yom Kippur for the year 5774

Yom Kippur (Hebrew: יוֹם כִּפּוּר, IPA: [ˈjom kiˈpuʁ], or יום הכיפורים), also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people.[1] Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. - Wikipedia

After about thirty years of technological advances in personal computing, creating smart phones and computer chips so small that 13 billion of them can dance on the head of a pin, there is one lesson I’ve learned – if anything goes wrong you can always fix it.. just restart it.  Just when you’re about ready to sit on hold for hours waiting to talk with the technical support division of whatever product you might be using, do yourself a favor. Turn off the machine, and start over. Re-boot. You’d be amazed at the cleansing effect a good re-start can have on a modern technological device.

Now let’s imagine if life had a restart button.  It would certainly make things easier. Anytime things aren’t going well, you could just hit a button and mistakes would be wiped out. How come we can’t do the same when things get complicated, when our hard drives get stuck, when we are frozen, when connections are lost.

I may not be a hi-tech wizard, but as a rabbi I can assure you that all of us do indeed have a reset mechanism. Its called teshuvah – understanding where we missed the mark, asking for forgiveness and then correcting our behavior.  According to the Talmud, Teshuva even preceded the creation of the world.  According to Rabbi Abraham Twersky, the world could not exist unless there was a way for each of us to rectify our mistakes.  Teshuvah brings us closer to each other and closer to God. It is the vehicle by which we achieve forgiveness.  Humanity cannot function optimally unless we have a way to rectify improper behavior towards others. We need this day to take stock of the life we led and the life we want to lead.  It is spiritual recalibration.  And it’s hard.  When your computer restarts, we demand it go back to the original path and its microprocessor doesn’t have to say sorry and understand why it made a mistake and try not to do it again.  It just goes back to the path and restarts.

But we humans are different.  We are not computers, we want the simple restart and it’s not easy.  If only we could go back in time for a do-over.  How often we would love that chance.  Let’s think back over the year, how many times would you like a do over, to take back something you said, to do it a different way, to have something undone.    But lets all take the time, right now as the new school year begins, as the leaves began to change colour, to try a reboot.  While we can never restart completely and cleanly like a computer, we must treasure the opportunity we have each year at this time to at least try.