The unetaneh tokef makes us consider that we our not in control of what will happen in the next year. Who will be rich and who will be humble? Who will be healthy and who sick? Who will live and who shall die.
Who? Me. You. All of us. Collectively, we will experience it all. The good, and the bad. Who? Me, for all I know.
But we aren't responsible for the who. We only get to live life as our self. We are, however, in control of the how. How will we live? How would we die? In strength, fighting for justice? Meekly, allowing injustice and inequity to run rampant around us?
I can control how I react to my circumstances, even if those circumstances aren't entirely under my control. How would I act if poverty befell me? How would do my part if I came upon riches? Would I allow sickness to be a burden? Would I take good health for granted?
Unetaneh Tokef. This day is awesome and full of dread. It is awesome because we confront our mortality, and full of dread because we also confront our lives. We can't know what will happen in the coming year. We have some control, of course, but not much. What we also can't know, but we can hope to influence, is how we will react to our circumstances. Sickness, health, poverty, riches, life, death, fire, plague. All of them are very real outcomes today. And yet, we can prepare ourselves to live a righteous and good life, whatever happens.
Yom Kippur, a rehearsal for our deaths. A point to reflect that we have lived our lives far from perfectly. We have sinned, we have transgressed. Kol Nidre, we absolve ourselves of the spiritual vows that we will not be able to keep. We will sin, we will transgress. But. We can do better. We can take lemons and make lemonade. We can accept that we may die, we may live, but while we live, we can do good. We can do better. We can make new mistakes, and continue to heal the wounds from the old mistakes.
Yom Kippur, a rehearsal for our deaths. May it motivate us in life, so when the real thing happens, we will be prepared -- we will have fewer regrets.