At Sundown tonight Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins. It’s the culmination of the High Holidays, a ten-day period that began last week with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It’s a time of solemn reflection and rededication of one’s life to self-improvement and to nobler callings.
When I was a boy, it was a time of torture. No radio, no television, no playing. Sitting all day in the synagogue without food or drink, listening to a Hebrew liturgy that I couldn’t understand, reading a translation that meant virtually nothing to me. Sexual immorality, improper thoughts, cheating my fellow man, joining in a lewd gathering, foolish talk, impurity of the lips, the Evil Inclination? I was just a kid. What did any of this have to do with me?
Did I really have to miss the World Series because of insufficient respect for parents and teachers? Wasn’t that punishment a little extreme for such a common failing? Not listen to the Baylor game so I could apologize for a grudging eye? I didn’t even know what that was!
Yom Kippur always seemed to fall on one of those wonderfully crisp Autumn days perfect for a pickup football game, while I was forced to wear a tie and sit squirming for hours and hours on a hard pew waiting for an evening that was never going to come. It was as though, on that one day, Joshua really did make the sun stand still.
As an adult, though, I’ve come to appreciate the day and the introspection it brings. It did take me a while, I admit, and I still have to fight my natural cynicism born of a career spent as a journalist, during which I was exposed all too often to man’s fallibility and resistance to virtue, myself included.
Still, taking stock of myself annually is a worthwhile endeavor, even if it’s only to remind me that I make the same mistakes every year, despite my sincere promises to reform. I still scoff, I’m still jealous, I’m still stubborn, I still gossip, I still say vain and stupid things, and I probably will again no matter how much I regret my shortcomings.
Then again, maybe this is the year. Maybe I’ve gained a little wisdom this time around. Maybe this year I’m finally a little more mature. One can always hope.
But I will take the day off, and I won’t watch baseball or football. And Sleeper Ave. will be taking the day off, too. It will return next week, though, drawn by the wiser and better person I hope I will have become in the interim.
Until then, here’s wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous year.