There is a Native American story regarding two wolves. One wolf embodies greed, selfishness, ego, revenge, and aggression. The other wolf embodies justice, compassion, patience, and kindness. As the story goes, both wolves live within us. Every day the wolves battle each other. Every day one is growing in strength over the other. Which one wins out in the end? The one that we feed.
The Jewish version of this tale is that we each walk with a yetzer ha’tov (a good inclination) and a yetzer ha’ra (an evil inclination). The two struggle against each other every hour of the day. Do we stop to help or continue on our way? Do we reach out to a lonely friend or convince ourselves it’s not needed? Do we resort to gossip and speculation or wait for all the facts? Are we hasty to judge or do we attempt to be sympathetic and understanding?
As we turn our gaze to Yom Kippur, we prepare for the holiest day of our year. It is indeed an awesome and awe-inspiring day of community, reflection, and prayer. The music moves us to a place of profound introspection and emotion. We sit in the pews and ask grand questions of ourselves. We consider who we wronged this past year, where we might have done better, and the person we would like to be going forward. We will think carefully about which wolf to feed, which inclination to bolster.
Yom Kippur or Yoma in Aramaic (literally THE Day) is an immersive experience the likes of which we have at no other point in the year. It is an entire day set aside for you, your soul, your relationship with God, your opportunity to re-connect with Jewish heritage. While we abstain from food, we fill our spirit with the renewing and refreshing sustenance of worship and learning. We hear the organ. We join in the songs that take us to a place of great heights and great depths.
I encourage you this Yom Kippur to say what needs to be said. Remind those dear ones that you love them. Thank those who have helped you this year. Apologize to those you may have wronged. Encourage your children and grandchildren to do the same. Let’s give ourselves the peace of knowing that we are doing our best for and with those we love.
Are there communities or groups we could have better aided? Are there causes we could have given more time? Have we stood up for the oppressed? Have we stood up for ourselves?
Let’s give ourselves the chance to start over, walking into a new year with hope, with purpose, and with enthusiasm.
May we be sealed – together – in the Book of Life.