Doing a 180 – with YOURSELF

Yom Kippur is a unique time of year in which G-d gives His people the opportunity to repent and start with a clean slate. Unfortunately, many people do not take advantage of this day, thinking, “I have done so many sins. How could I possibly repent? It is just impossible! Imagine someone taking a hike (before GPS) in a large park, and he gets to a fork in the trail. He goes left, thinking that is the way back to the parking lot. He walks and walks through the trees, and after two hours he is still on the trail and completely lost. Fortunately, he meets someone else on the trail, and they explain to him that back at the fork he should have gone right and not left.

So, he makes a 180 turn and begins walking back. Yes, it is another two hours away from the fork, and then more walking from there to the exit! But the moment he makes a U-turn he is heading in the right direction, and that is what is important.

When the Jews were slaves in Egypt, they had a similar problem: Many of them copied the wicked ways of the Egyptians – so much so that the Jews even worshipped idols. They were on the 49th level of impurity – one more level down and they would be lost forever. But on the day of the Exodus, G-d gave them the commandment to sacrifice the Pascal Lamb. The Jews followed this commandment and were able to turn themselves around. Sure, they were STILL on the 49th level of impurity, and they had a long way to go until they reached level ZERO and then try to climb from there to the highest level when they received the Torah at Mount Sinai. But the important part was that they were now heading UP – in the correct direction towards HOLINESS and not SPIRITUAL IMPURITY!

Rabbeinu Yonah (Rabbi Jonah ben Abraham Gerondi d. 1264) rules that for a Jew to do proper repentance, he merely must commit to turning himself around and moving forward in the correct direction. When he does this, he might still be surrounded by sin, and it might take him years – even DECADES – to raise himself up out of his sin, and then more time to climb higher in spirituality.

But if a person decides to change his direction in life, then at that moment he is no longer a sinner, but someone has repented properly and is now on the road out of sin. And as such, G-d will wipe away the sins of someone who has properly repented, making full repentance followed by growth to be even easier.

Take advantage of this special day of Yom Kippur. There will be more work to do after Yom Kippur, but the important thing is to head in the right direction.

Based on sermons by Rabbi Yisroel Brog and Rabbi Avrohom Baruch Zachariash.

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