I hate Yom Kippur. Not for the fasting (it’s not fun, but it’s not that hard either), and not for the confession of sins. I can even handle the theological gymnastics of “who shall live and who shall die”.
What I don’t like about Yom Kippur is the aftermath.
We make our Jew Years Resolutions. We tap our hearts. We feel bad about who we are and what we have done. And then we go back to being the same people we were before. Frankly, not much changes between the remorseful Neila and screaming at your kids because you just want a bagel and the oneg line is a million miles long and you said you were going to go Paleo anyway.
Yom Kippur gives us the tools to feel sorry, but it doesn’t give us the tools to do anything with our newfound outlook on life.
So here’s my thoughts on how to correct this.
Don’t Make Resolutions
You can’t live up to them. It’s scientifically impossible. 88% of these kinds of oaths to God fail.
Instead, make habits.
If you want to be a better husband, don’t decide that you are going to cut your hours back at work and run the carpool for your kids school and start cooking dinner every night.
An easier and more practical idea is lighting Shabbat candles. It takes two minutes. But if you can get in the habit of lighting candles with your wife once a week, then you can slowly build up to whatever you want.
Ask For Help
The hardest phrase in the English language is “can you help me?” We’re socialized into believing that help is for losers and people who can’t get their act together.
Instead of trying to be a little island, form a Helping Club, or what some people call a Time Bank.
The idea is pretty simple: you set up an organized group of people who help each other, based on each other’s skill sets. Have a friend that’s a doctor? See if she will see patients for 10-15 minutes in return for having your cousin look at her car. Someone needs their child’s bedroom painted? Trade painting time for a few hours of GRE tutoring…or whatever you need.
Sure, in theory you help your friends and family when they need you, but you can always flake out at any time. There’s no social responsibility in that way of assisting others. In a formal system like a Time Bank, you’re locked into helping. But the reward of never feeling bad about saying “I need help” outweighs any reservations you might have about losing more of your time.
Do Something Different Every Day
Routines are terrible to break. But if you can break one routine, you can break another.
So for example, if you have a resolution to go to the gym every day (which you shouldn’t have, but whatever), first try changing the order in which you get ready in the morning. Instead of brushing your teeth, then showering, then eating breakfast, try eating breakfast, then brushing your teeth, then showering. Sure, it’s silly — but it empowers you to make other kinds of changes without feeling like your whole world is going to collapse.
What are you going to do in the new Jewish year? What’s something different you would like to try? Let us know!
Rabbi Patrick is the director of PunkTorah. His poorly planned goal of going zero-carb is the inspiration for this article.