Last night I received a prompt on my iPad, asking me to approve a software update to iOS 11. I was in the middle of something, so I clicked on “Later” and then “Install Tonight.” I finished up whatever else I was working on, and went to sleep, counting on the update to occur overnight..
This morning I woke up and went to shut down my iPad, assuming the update had completed while I was sleeping. Instead, I was greeted with a notification: “Your update was not completed since iPad was not connected to power.”
“Silly me,” I thought. How could I expect to get the update done without being plugged into the power? It’s so energy-draining, and that would be tough on the battery unless I had plugged in.
I then stopped cold. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are around the corner. We are told to take the time to introspect and consider ways to improve the way we act, behave and think. We are essentially trying to give ourselves an update. This is a truly daunting task, and it is fraught with roadblocks. We have been ingrained with these behaviors and negative thought processes for so long, that it seems foolhardy to even bother changing. “Look, we’re not angels.” “I’m only human.” These are some of the phrases we utter to ourselves as we avoid committing to real change.
But God still expects us to engage in this special mitzvah of teshuva. How can we? Isn’t God being unreasonable?
Rabbi Dov Yaffe was the mashgiach ruchani (spiritual advisor) of Yeshivas Knesses Chizkiyahu in K’far Chasidim, Israel, and was a direct link in the chain of the musar (ethical) tradition taught by Rabbi Yisroel Salanter from Lithuania in the 19th century. He tells us that according to Jewish mystical tradition, God sends a special illumination to each of us on Rosh Hashana and our job is to tap into its power to help ourselves effect personal changes.
The Talmud tells us that Joseph was freed from prison in Egypt on Rosh Hashana (Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashana 11a). Why is this significant for us to know?
Rabbi Yaffe answers that this is a paradigm for all of us that God is sending us the power to liberate ourselves from being incarcerated in our own habits and behaviors.
That the same page of the Talmud states that our matriarchs Sarah and Rachel, who had been biologically incapable of having children, conceived on Rosh Hashana. God miraculously changed their biology to start the Jewish nation. These great women were reborn on Rosh Hashana.
Rabbi Yaffe says that we, too, can be reborn miraculously on Rosh Hashana, since God has put that power of potential and change into the world.
The update needs to happen. But it will only work if we plug into the Power.