Most of us have been to a car wash at least once in our lives. The ones that are the most fun, for kids and adults alike, are the kind where you remain in the car, shift into neutral and float along on the conveyor belt.
First, there’s a spray of water from one side, then the soap hits the car from somewhere else, and for an additional couple bucks you can get some hot wax so that the shine lasts longer.
Finally, big rubber pieces envelope the car and dry it without so much as a scratch. Thirty seconds after this wash cycle has begun, you’re driving out in your car that looks like a million bucks. That is, until you realize that the interior of your car still has windows that are smudged from the inside, a few cookie crumbs are on the floor, there’s an empty Styrofoam container from your most recent cuppa and there are even a few loose coins embedded in the seat.
What can you do to get rid of the mess inside? The only way to clean it is to open up your door and let some guy with a bottle of Windex and a vacuum jump in and do the rest of the job.
On Yom Kippur we all go to the synagogue, sit down, position ourselves in neutral and wait for the conveyor belt to begin moving.
The rabbi zaps you from this side, the cantor gets you from the other side, sit down, stand up, sit down. There’s a sermon, the Torah reading, and before you
know it, there’s an announcement of a break and another announcement telling you when the break will be over and when the afternoon services will resume.
Many of us walk out of shul after the shofar blowing signaling the close of Yom Kippur feeling like a million bucks, all clean and shiny and new. But then it hits us. We aren’t any cleaner on the inside than when we walked in. All of those faults and bad habits we had promised ourselves we’d change are still with us. And no amount of sitting in the synagogue, no matter how much the seats cost, is going to change us.
How can we change? Unlike our cars, unfortunately, it isn’t a matter of letting someone in with rags and cleaning solution. It’s much more difficult because we’re the only ones who can really make sure that our insides get cleaned. Which isn’t to say that change has to be a solitary experience. It certainly is easier when we have help and support from the people around us.
Like a car wash, however, getting our insides clean is intrinsically tied up with “opening up.” Once we’re open to change we’re half way there.
This season of the High Holidays is the time when we contemplate our past behaviour, our involvement in Judaism, our goals and values. It is a most appropriate time to begin making the necessary changes in our lives. Open up. Try something new. Attend a Torah study class. Read an edifying Jewish book. Learn the choreography of prayer. Incorporate Jewish teachings and wisdom into your family life, parenting techniques, business relations, charitable endeavours. Add a new mitzva to your repertoire of mitvot. Clean up your insides. Then you’ll look and feel like a million bucks.
Rabbi Nir Gurevitch
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