We hear, read, and say it every year on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur: Repentance, prayer, and charity change the decree to a positive ending. It sounds like an easy task, yet every year we fall short of our goal.
The first step is understanding that there is a problem - namely, that we act in a manner that indicates we want to change.
An example to show how hard it is to admit that there is a problem is the analogous situation of those who refuse to take the COVID vaccine. There are some individuals who do not believe that there is a COVID-19 problem. It is hyped up by the government to try to gain control over the population, they say. Fortunately, it’s only a small group. Likewise, alcoholics and drug addicts try to rationalize that they have no problem. They claim they can control it at any time or that it is not interfering with their lives.
Many believe that these individuals have lost contact with reality and are deluding themselves. However, if you talk to these anti-vaxxers, alcoholics, and drug addicts, they are adamant about their position.
Similarly, we who are not in either group do not realize that we are engaging in improper conduct for which we need to repent. We stick with this denial even when confronted by others. It is hard to admit mistakes.
If we are fortunate to admit that there is a problem, there is a second roadblock: namely, getting ourselves to do something about it even though we know what needs to be done.
It has been established that getting the vaccine is the best way to limit the chances of a severe illness or death if you contract COVID. For example, in June, 99% of those who died from COVID were unvaccinated. Yet so many people will not take the vaccine even though they admit there is virus that causes many deaths and serious injuries. The excuses have evolved over time. First it was that the vaccine was rushed for emergency approval; there wasn’t enough time to see how it worked. Then it was that since COVID was on the decline, there was no need to take it. Some said that they would not take it because it did not receive FDA approval. After the FDA approved it, the excuse was that it was rushed through, or it was political. Another claim was that the FDA did not approve the Pfizer vaccine that is used in America. To those who have been vaccinated, these excuses are nonsense, yet the anti-vaxxers use them to justify their refusal to get vaccinated.
Likewise, there are plenty excuses given for not doing teshuvah, davening, or giving tzedakah. For example, we are too set in our ways to change. Why bother - it never worked before. We are too busy to spend the time to properly pray. We don’t have the money to donate, or how can we trust the charity that is requesting the funds. To others, the excuses ring hollow. Yet we have successfully used them as an excuse not to change.
It is never too late. We have the ability to change. All we need is the will to do so. May this be the year when we say that teshuvah, Tefilah, and tzedakah change the decree - and then act.