Many years ago, when I taught Hebrew school, one of my favorite lessons to teach was the lesson about seeking forgiveness.
To help young children understand, I would demonstrate by lightly tapping a doll or, in the very old days, a child’s arm. (I totally acknowledge that doing this today would be unacceptable.) So, I would tap their arm and then say “I’m sorry,” and then do it again and again, always saying “I’m sorry.” Of course, the children giggled. I would repeat this several times, always apologizing. Then, I asked the children if I was indeed sorry. Of course, they all said “NO.” I challenged that answer by asking, “Are you calling me a liar? I said I was sorry.” “No, no, you are not sorry” they always responded.
“WHY?” I asked. “Because you are still hitting him.” Yes, they got it.
Poor behavior followed by an apology means nothing if the behavior continues. So, then, I would make it more complicated by asking, “Why did I apologize? If I was a child, why would I apologize? Did a teacher or my parent make me? Did I really mean it?”
We all understand this process and yet we struggle, often daily, to do the right thing, apologize when we don’t, change our behavior, and hopefully do charitable deeds to complete the process. It seems so simple, or it should be.
Year after year, we stand on Yom Kippur, acknowledging the same transgressions that we did the year before. Is it human nature when we don’t really change? How do we really become more righteous people? Maybe the challenge I have for you is to read that seemingly endless list of sins and just pick one. Pick one this year that you are going to try not to do! It might take a lifetime, but, if you changed your behavior by conquering one fault every year, by life’s end, you will know that, indeed, you tried your best to become the person you knew you could be…a person truly created in God’s image.
Wishing you an easy fast and an early Shabbat Shalom,