A husband and wife fight and they grow apart. Neither is willing to take the first step towards reconciliation and so the rift deepens. Each one blames the other for the problems in the relationship.
But, as time goes on, one of them realizes that there is a choice to be made: accept my own weaknesses; take responsibility for my own role in this discord — or allow my arrogance to contribute to the slow breakdown of the relationship.
He approaches his wife, apologizes unconditionally for the pain he has caused her and asks that they work together to bring the relationship back to the way that it was all those years ago. There is still a long and painful road ahead before complete reconciliation, but the willingness to take responsibility for one’s own mistakes is always the crucial first step. As long as both are in the blaming mode, they will find no common ground. Once they move from blaming to accepting responsibility, there is a hope of move forward.
This is, in essence, what Yom Kippur is about.
We have drifted away from God over the past year. We have not taken pleasure in His world in the way we know we should. We have not moved ourselves into deeper levels of Godliness. We have not taken him seriously.
But worse, we have been blaming. We blame God because life is no good. We blame Him for making things so difficult for us. We blame Him for not revealing himself more; if only He would split open the ceiling and say hello, it would be so much easier to believe in Him. We blame Him for not giving us all the things that other people have and not filling our lives with the goodness that He could.
Yom Kippur is about stopping the blaming and start taking responsibility. Is life really no good, or is it just that we are unwilling to make the effort to appreciate? Do we really want God to take away all of our challenges, or don’t we think that overcoming challenges is what gives us our deepest sense of personal fulfilment? If God split the ceiling and said hello, would we really believe in Him, or would we just find other excuses to run away? And if He filled our lives with more and more goodness, wouldn’t we just fail to appreciate it in the way that we fail to appreciate all the goodness that we have right now?
On Yom Kippur, we stand before God, hand on heart and say, “God: it’s not your fault.” We take responsibility. We are not who we should be, so life is not what it could be. We are the problem in the relationship, not You.
Hard as it might be to accept responsibility for the problems in a relationship and begin the road of reconciliation, it is also a very, very deep pleasure. It lifts you out of your own pettiness and towards the realms of greatness. And when the reconciliation comes — the couple embraces, crying for how they have hurt each other, how they have missed each other, how joyous they are to be together once again — it is a highlight of the relationship for years to come.
This is Yom Kippur. As a day of reconciliation between the pure human soul and its Father in Heaven, it is the highlight of the year.