This website was designed on an Apple computer. Every word that I have written on this blog was composed on an Apple computer. When I get an email during the day saying that someone has left a comment, I see that email, and I read the comment, on an iPhone.
Yesterday, I read on my iPhone that Steve Jobs had died.
He said this about a year after he was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer:
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment of failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
Oddly enough, that is also the central message of Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur is the day that we hold our annual dress rehearsal for our own death. The traditional garment for Yom Kippur is the kittel, a white burial shroud. We ignore the body's physical needs on Yom Kippur, fasting as if we had no need of food. Tomorrow night, we will stand in front of an ark with all of the Torah scrolls removed, an empty box that might as well be our coffins.
The challenge of Yom Kippur is to face your own mortality and to discover that all the things you hold as being so important—ego, material success, status and security—are a trifle. As we say in the Unetane Tokef prayer, "Human beings are like a broken shard, withering grass, a fading flower, a passing shade, a dissipating cloud, a blowing wind, flying dust, and a fleeting dream." Yom Kippur leaves us naked of our conceits, our petty plans, and the notion that we have "something to lose."
Yom Kippur's focus on death, though, is not for the sake of self-negation. Rather, as Steve Jobs said, it is to focus our attention on what truly matters. Recognizing our mortality is intended to help us to focus instead on the things that really matter in life: our sacred connection to the people around us, our joy in living lives that make a difference, and being a part of a universe that God has given us as an insurpassable gift.
May you be bound in the bonds of life, Steve Jobs.
To the rest of you: G'mar chatimah tovah. May Yom Kippur seal you for a good year.