I was recently in the U.S. celebrating two beautiful weddings, multiple festive Sheva Brachot and one wonderful 80th birthday party. Landing in Israel after a five-hour delay followed by a ten-hour flight, I was exhausted. My son and daughter-in-law graciously picked us up from Ben-Gurion Airport with my car, and I proceeded to drive them home.
Right before arriving at their apartment on the edge of Bnai Brak, I received a moving violation. Not operating at peak capacity and having gotten accustomed over the past few weeks to long U.S. yellow lights, I ran a yellow light which seemed to turn red way too quickly. The police officer pulled me over and—correctly—reprimanded me for putting my life and, more importantly, my family’s lives in danger. He filled out the ticket, voiced hope that I had learned my lesson, and then wished me a “Shana Tova” (only in Israel!).
I like to believe that I am a safe driver (don’t we all?) but we can all admit that sometimes we do questionable driving activities (i.e., speeding, not signaling, etc.) and don’t get “caught.” It harkens me back to seventh grade, getting suspended and pleading to my principal that “I really didn’t do it.” He wisely replied that my suspension was for all the times that I had done things and not gotten caught. I gave no response, as he had made an excellent point.
Back to my moving violation: My initial reaction was that of frustration for getting caught. Hey, it’s 1,000 NIS! And a lot of points on my license! After stewing for a little while, my next reaction was that I wouldn’t have learned my lesson had I not gotten shaken up by receiving a ticket. My third reaction was that I was fortunate that I didn’t get into an accident and how blessed I was to learn my lesson without any ensuing tragic results. And my final reaction was that there is a profound teshuva (repentance) lesson to be learned from this experience.
We often think that we are above the law. Unfortunately, most of us don’t get “shaken up” unless we get caught. And if we don’t get “shaken up,” then affecting change is very difficult. Getting “shaken up” before Rosh Hashanah is a blessing, as it reminds us that as good as we may think we are doing, we know that we can and should do better. There are religious and spiritual aspirations to achieve, interpersonal relationships to strengthen, business ethics to polish and growth opportunities to seize. We have an amazing capacity for achievement and we shouldn’t limit our goals by settling for “okay” or “not bad.”
With Rosh Hashanah upon us, let’s embrace the holiday’s stirring prayers and summon the piercing shofar blasts to touch our souls; let’s allow ourselves to get “shaken up” and take the courageous step to aspire to greatness. In the merit of our efforts, may the Almighty bless us—individually and collectively—with a year infused with growth and accomplishment.
By Gedaliah Borvick