This Shabbat we observe Yom Kippur – the day of “Atonement.”  We repent and ask forgiveness for our “sins.”  The word “sin” in English is a loaded word; it may make us think of very terrible deeds. However, the Hebrew wordחטא  (chet) which is usually translated as “sin,” does not necessarily imply something that terrible. The word חטא  (chet) is related to the verb להחטיא (lehachti) – which is an archery term meaning  “to miss the mark.”  To “miss the mark” is something that can happen often in our lives, in small and big ways.  We miss the mark when we get frustrated and say something to our children, friends or colleagues that we wish we hadn’t.  We miss the mark when we don’t achieve the goals we set for ourselves. We miss the mark when we fall short of helping a person in need.  Missing the mark is part of being human.  Often, we had the right intention, the right “kavannah”:  we “aimed,” like in archery, to hit the mark, but because we’re not perfect, we shot off target.  The Jewish tradition understands this, so the response to a חטא (chet) is תשובה (teshuvah) – to try again.  We recognize our short-falling, we apologize to others and to ourselves.  We pick up the fallen arrow of our good intentions, and try this time to hit closer to the mark.

This Yom Kippur, may we all recognize when and how we missed the mark, and may we all have the courage to pick up the arrow and aim again.  I wish everyone a Tzom Kal – an easy fast.

Gemar Chatimah Tovah,

Moreh Greg