This is my favorite analogy for thinking about the High Holy Days. As I prepare for all that is coming up (gulp) soon, I usually re-read all my favorite materials. This one came up today.
My kids love to go to the carwash. When I shift the car into neutral, they squeal with delight. They think it's so cool to sit in the car while the water sprays on all sides, the sponges swish, and then there's the big dryer and the car is all shiny, squeaky clean!
And what the kids don't realize, but I certainly do, is that while the outside of the car is shiny and clean, the inside is NOT. There are smudges on the windows, there are goldfish cracker crumbs everywhere, and there are toys and books strewn all around. The only way to REALLY get the car clean is with the super car wash, the one where you get out and let the guys inside. They bring the vacuum and really clear it all out.
The holidays are the same. It's possible to go to services, shift into neutral, and let the conveyor belt move you along. You get hit on all sides - music, rabbi, sermon, shofar, Torah....before you know it, it's over and you walk out feeling shiny and new.
But does sitting in synagogue really do it? Just those few short hours? Probably not. The only way to make personal change is to get inside and vacuum out all the goldfish cracker crumbs. It starts now, it starts with Elul and with these weeks of preparation. It starts with allowing yourself to be opened up to the possibilities of growth and change and not just coasting along, hoping it will just happen for you.
Are you ready?