Lessons from Renewing My License Before the Days of Awe

There is a custom that all us drivers know all too well:  license renewal.  I hadn't had to go through the 'process' of actually going into the office since 9/11 and I realized that proving 'who I am' (i.e. my identity) became a lot more complicated!   As a result of my birthday being in August, I also realized that license renewal almost always occurs during the month of Elul, a time of deep introspection and preparation for the Yamim Noraim (the Days of Awe/the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur).  With this kavanah in mind, I wanted to give some observations and some guiding questions that you may help you prepare for these 'tests'.
Observation 1:  
It's not easy to prove who you are!  Take a look at all the documents you need to bring with you to get a new license -CLICK HERE TO BE TAKEN THE DMV'S SITE
Primary Identification, Proof of Social Security Number, 2 Proofs of Residential Address

It might not seem like much, but try finding all these documents in your home!  It wasn't easy, but I was more taken aback by having to prove who you are to others.

1.  Do you truly know yourself?  2.  Do you know who YOU are?  If not, how can you better find who YOU are?
3.  If you feel confident that you know who YOU are, how do you think others see you?  Does your perception of who you are match with their perception?  Why, or why not?  If not, do you want to change this?  If you do want to change it, what will you do to make this happen in the New Year?  
Also, it took a lot of time to get all these documents together; I had to prepare.  I had to find the safe place where I store these documents and I had to take them out to use them. On Yom Kippur, the high priest goes into the Holy of Holies, the holiest place on earth for our people which held the ark of the covenant.  Only one day a year, the high priest, and only the high priest, was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies. 
1.  Do you have a Holy of Holies?  How often do you 'visit' it? 

Observation 2:
Getting a new license is the great equalizer, and so are the High Holidays.  
It doesn't matter if you are male, female, rich, poor, white, black, asian, hispanic, etc.; when you get a new license, you are equal in the eyes of our government.  On the high holidays, all of us, no matter who we are or what we do in life, stand before God, as Mishnah Rosh Hashanah (1:2) tells us: 
 בראש השנהכל באי עולם עוברין לפניו כבני מרוןשנאמר "היוצר יחדליבםהמביןאל כל מעשיהםתהילים לג,טו.
On Rosh Hashnah, the whole world passes before God like sheep, as it says,
"He that fashions the hearts of them all, that considers all their actions." (Psalms 33:15)

All of us stand together before God to answer for our actions for the year and how we will become better in the next year.  Even if we think we are lions, during these holidays, we are all sheep.  
Not everyone agrees that everyone should be equal before God or before the law!  There is a story of the famous hockey player, Sidney Crosby getting bumped to the front of the line due to his fame and the fear that he would cause a stir at the DMV - CLICK HERE TO READ MORE.

1.  Should one receive special treatment when standing before God?  If so, do you think you are deserving of this?   
2.  Do we think only about ourselves when it comes to trying times or do we think about others as well?  
3.  Who would you let skip in front of you in line?  Why?  
Observation 3:
To get a new license, you have to check your vision.
How do you see the world this year?  Is it different than how you saw things last year?
Observation 4
Sometimes you can mail it in, but sometimes, you can't. 
In the state of Florida, you can renew your license by mail, but to renew after that, you have to go to a location, take a new picture, and go through the process.  

Not all years are equal.  On sone years, we mail it in, but other years, we are compelled to make the effort and show up.  If its your year to show up, I hope you join our community.  For information about uplifting our High Holiday service, PLEASE CLICK HERE!  

Observation 5 - 

When you renew or get a new license, and on the High Holidays, we embrace our mortality.  

On RH we embrace the fragility of life when we say the famous prayer, the Unetaneh Tokef which contain the famous words:  But repentance, prayer and righteousness avert the severity of the decree.

When I was renewing my license, I was asked the question, do you want to be an organ donor?  At that moment, I was forced to think about my mortality!  Driving is an awesome responsibility!  We hold our lives and the lives of our fellow travelers in our hands every time we get behind the wheel, and at any moment, our lives can change in unthinkable ways.  Is this so different in the normal activities that we perform on a daily basis?


1.  Have I fully embraced the fragility of life?
2.  Have I taken the famous line from Avot D'Rabbi Natan, 'repent a day before your death' seriously?  
3.  Am I an organ donor?  If not, why not?  It is now a main stream belief that Judaism supports organ donation which is concurrent with the value of Pikuach Nefesh/Saving a life.  For more information about Judaism and organ donation, PLEASE CLICK HERE.  
4.  Are you scared to embrace your mortality even if it means saving someone else's life?
5.  Organ donation can be a metaphorical also:  Are you ready to share your heart with someone else this year that you have grown distant from?  How about your ears - are you ready to listen to someone who you have been ignoring?  

Whether you are a new or life long driver, whether on the road or in life, all of us take these tests on a daily basis, but before and during the High Holidays, these tests are highlighted.  I wish you all good luck on your LIFE RENEWAL PROCESS in the new year of 5774!  

Shanah Tovah, U'Metukah, and may all of you be inscribed in the Book of Life!  

Rabbi David Baum


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