Upon arriving in Timisoara, Romania, this week, my first visit was to the Museum of the 1989 Revolution. I remember the events of 1989, but somehow I had forgotten that Romania was also one of the countries that overturned its government. I learned a lot, earned a few points with my hosts, and saw Timisoara in a whole new light. This was the birthplace of their revolution.
Since Yom Kippur is next week and I wanted to write about that too, I thought about how the two things fit together.
The 1989 revolution started with a small demonstration with something like 20 people who didn’t want their priest to be arrested. One thing led to another until the Opera House in Timisoara became the headquarters of the revolution and the frenzy of it all swept across Romania. Change begins with a small action; sometimes it’s hard and painful, but hopefully things will be better afterwards. There are no guarantees. You just have to believe in the cause and keep moving forward with your hopes and dreams to guide you toward something better.
Yom Kippur is not so different. Yom Kippur is the 10th day of reflection at the beginning of the Jewish New Year. The religious tradition is that for 9 days, you make peace with your fellow human beings. On the 10th day, you make peace with God. On Yom Kippur you fast for 25 hours (no drinking either!) and you dedicate yourself fully to prayer, reflection, and confession. By the end you are an empty vessel ready to start anew. For the next year, you start small and try to fill up your vessel self with something better.
In my own attempt to make peace with my fellow human beings, let me apologize for any slights or insults. If I hurt you in any way, I’m sorry. I know that a general blanket apology pales in comparison to a real and personal apology, and I’m sorry for that too.
This year Yom Kippur falls on my birthday. While I’m not looking forward to fasting on my birthday, perhaps this is an interesting coincidence that serves as a reminder that every year begins anew, with a clean state, full of potential, a chance to refill my newly emptied vessel self with something better.
G’mar Hatima Tova! (May you be written in the Book of Life!)
Next week I’ll write about my visit to Timisoara. I still have 2 days left of my trip.