Yom Kippur – Can We Really Change?

By: Rabbi Mendy Wolf


In these days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, a major topic on the agenda is New Year’s Resolutions. Many of us have committed to make this year a better one, whether by becoming more spiritual, punctual, or amicable; by increasing our level of observance or decreasing our weight.

But do you ever wonder what will happen when the inspiration wears off? Do you fear that, good intentions aside, your grand resolutions will be impossible to keep? Is it even feasible to change anyway?

I am reminded of an old saying: If Augustus were to rise from the grave today and call out in Old Latin, he would be met with silence, for there is no one around to understand. But if Moses were to appear and exclaim, “Shalom Aleichem!” a chorus of voices would respond with the traditional “Aleichem Shalom!”
The Jewish people, contrary to all natural indications and in defiance of the laws of statistics, have outlived the once-mighty empires that set out to destroy them. And not only have they survived, they have flourished, achieving the impossible.

So what’s that got to do with anything?

Everything. The history of the Jewish people teaches us that we can achieve the unachievable. There is no such thing as probability, possibility or chance. No laws of nature. You can do anything.

That’s why, on Rosh Hashana, we read about the birth of our forefather Isaac. Barren for years, Sarah miraculously bore a child at the age of 90. Reading this story at the start of the New Year, we are reminded that anything can be accomplished with a little willpower, determination and Divine assistance.

So can you keep your great resolutions? That’s like asking: Should the Jews be around today? Should Isaac have been born?

Nothing should have been possible. But it was. And you can.


Rabbi Mendy Wolf is the educational director for the Institute of American & Talmudic Law, and the director for Project Life, an organization which promotes Jewish values throughout the business community in NYC. R’ Mendy is a sought after teacher and lecturer and resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and family. Contact Rabbi Mendy to book him to speak or with feedback at mwolf@iatlaw.org.

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