The Medrash relates the following tale. A man was taking a stroll in a beautiful meadow and noticed two birds fighting. The larger bird got enraged and struck and killed the other bird. Seeing the bird not moving and in a lifeless state, the large bird flew a short distance and plucked a blade of grass. It returned to the dead bird and waved the grass in front of its face and the dead bird awoke and flew off.
The man observing this phenomenal power of resurrection went and picked up the blade of grass and continued on his way.
He chanced upon a dead lion on the side of the road and thought to himself, “Here is my opportunity to test the powers of this grass.” He waved the grass under the lion’s nose and it awoke, rose to its feet, and immediately pounced on the man and killed him.
This story has a very sad and abrupt ending, however, let’s see what point the story may be conveying to us.
Here is a person who has in his possession a blade of grass that had the power to resurrect life. What did he use it for? He awakened an animal of prey which promptly killed him and destroyed all the potential that lay in the grass.
One can only imagine what would have been had he used this blade of grass to awaken our greatest prophets, King David or King Chizkiyahu who had the potential to be the Messiah. Or imagine him awaking a doctor who passed away at the prime of his life when he was just on the verge of finding a cure or vaccine for a dreaded disease.
He could have gone to his parents’ grave and awakened them and been reunited, yet, he squandered all this great potential and he resurrected a lion which brought about his own demise.
In truth, every moment of our lives we have the potential to bring life to ourselves and to others. G-d has invested only mankind with the power of speech. We can either use it constructively by uplifting others or we can use it to destroy others. One can amass great wealth and lock it up in an account, or he can use it to help and assist others.
We have opportunities to pray, study Torah and perform Mitzvos which gives us eternal life, or we can waste our time uselessly.
In reality, we each have a powerful and awesome ‘blade of grass’ with resurrecting potential in our possession!
Yom Kippur is when we make an honest assessment of our lives. It is when we are not distracted by food or drink. It is when we do not don leather footwear and our feet are on the ground – literally. We are not in pursuit of the lusts that beckon and distract us.
It is a day of focus on the real things of life – our relationships with others, and of course our relationship with the Almighty.
We are literally given the ‘blade of grass’ which has all the potential for the entire year and we can make the decision to use our life for true and eternal values or we can take it and awaken things that will consume us and rob us of the true meaning of life.
Not long ago there was a town in New Hampshire that unearthed a time capsule that had been sealed for 50 years. The town folk gathered to see what message or surprise was waiting inside. They opened it and found that it was…empty, zero, there was nothing inside. What a letdown!
We can look at ourselves as having such a time capsule. We should ask ourselves – after 120 years in this world, what will be contained in our ‘time capsule’?
The Torah tells us that before Moshe passed away he foretold that the Jews will worship foreign gods which would ignite
G-d’s wrath. When punishment will be meted out they will not recognize that it is because of their grave sin of idol worship, rather they will say it is because, “G-d is not within me.”
Says the Sfas Emes, the root of the problem that brought the people to sin is because they did not believe that G-d is within them!
We are all created with a pure soul and it is G-d who puffs from Himself the breath of life into us. Thus, our ‘capsule’ of life is inherently pure, spiritual and G-dly.
G-d entrusts us with this ‘capsule’ and gives us the choices as to how to navigate through life. G-d knows that life can be challenging and therefore lovingly gave us Ten days of Repentance spanning from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur so we can contemplate and repair ourselves through Teshuva – repentance – and recalculate our priorities in life.
On Yom Kippur we are likened to angels. Angels have six wings; they alight and navigate off the ground. On Yom Kippur when G-d atones us from our wrongdoing, and in a certain sense, when the burden of sin is wiped away, we are figuratively uplifted with feelings of holiness. With this recharged energy we can be confident that we will maintain this wonderful spiritual momentum throughout the entire year!