Last week I took my car in for its first scheduled 15,000-mile tune up. The tires were rotated. The oil was changed. The brakes were checked, as well as a host of other things that I don’t pretend to understand. Now it was all set for another year. To be honest part of my motivation was that my father would soon be visiting. I was afraid he might notice my inspection sticker was almost out of date. I did not want to hear his reminder, “Steven, you better get your inspection taken care of. You might get a ticket.” I even threw in a car wash for good measure.
The car would now pass father’s inspection, something far more important than New York State’s. After two hours, and couple of hundred dollars, I was all set. The car was tuned up and could pass any inspection. The new sticker was affixed to my windshield.
If only it were that easy for our souls. A few hundred dollars and a few hours in synagogue would be all that was required.
Most people think the High Holidays are like that tune up. They believe Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur offer us a time to recharge our spiritual batteries. They look at the rabbi and cantor as mechanics. Bring the soul in for a two-hour tune up at synagogue and you are set for the coming year.
In truth these holidays are more like that inspection. And each of us is our own mechanic. The prayers are meant to awaken our self-examination. Why else do we recite over and over again, “For the sin we have committed…” These days are intended as an opportunity to examine our lives.
The Jewish contention is clear. No one is perfect. Everyone is flawed. All need to inspect their souls. Everyone is in need of repair.
The Jewish faith is emphatic. Everyone can do better. All can improve their lives. Every single person can change and correct their failings.
The inspection is these High Holidays. The tune up lasts a lifetime of effort.
And that is all father really asks of us.
“Avinu Malkeinu, be gracious and answer us, for we have little merit. Treat us generously and with kindness, and be our help.”