Whenever I visit a new doctor at his office for the very first time I have to fill out the patient information collection form. It lists all possible ailments, diseases, and disorders. Usually I have to check off just a couple of them like I’m lactose intolerant and I suffer from acid reflex. When I turn back the forms, I ask the person behind the desk, “Has anybody ever scored 100%?” Of course, nobody can be that sick.
The same is true with the confessional, Al Chet. The traditional Al Chets lists so many sins ranging from gossip to sexual immorality to rushing to do evil. Nobody can be that bad. And that is the good news. We all have our faults, things that we’re embarrassed about, and transgressions we need to own up to, but nobody is that bad.
My bike taught me what we need to do just in time for Yom Kippur. After my crash in Israel this past May, convincing myself that I needed a new bike wasn’t that hard. Besides upgrading to a better and newer model, I could fix up my old bike and give it to my son who will need it as a main mode of transportation in his new home. It was a win-win situation.
My only problem with my new bike was my knees. They began to hurt a half an hour into the ride. The pain was almost unbearable. My local bike shop owners tried their best to solve my problem. Even though the pain lessened, riding was no longer enjoyable. Finally I decided I needed to return to the professionals who fitted my old bike to me and solved my problems five years ago. This past Thursday, I went to Signature Bicycles in the city for help. I went to the right place. Almost immediate my personal fitter saw what the problems were. First of the angle of my seat was a bit too steep. The angle was just over five degrees when it should have been only just a bit over four degrees. I was slipping down the seat, putting more pressure on my knees than was good for them. Once the seat was in the right position, my clips on my bike shoes could go back to the neutral position following the natural position of my feet and legs. To alieve the numbness in my hands, he changed the position of my handlebars a bit. He also noticed that my shoes were worn and too wide for my feet and recommended a different shoe which will direct the power of my stroke so that I would get the maximum benefit from my peddling. Last of all, he reminded me of the proper position when I actually ride my bike. What a difference all those little tweaks made. My ride Friday morning was a delight because all my problems disappeared.
The same is true when we prepare for Yom Kippur. Nobody I know is all bad. Most of us just need a few tweaks and we can turn our lives around. That’s the message of the New Year. In the New Machzor, there is a wonderful responsive reading entitled To begin again by Abraham Karp. “The old year is gone. The ledger is closed. Our Book of Life is now open to a new page. No sins blot it, no indiscretions blemish it…On (the New Year) we receive the gift of beginning again. We now know what we did not know then. What will we do with the knowledge? How will we use the gift?” The choice is in your hands. Small changes can make big differences.