There is a Marvel superhero called Dr. Strange who tends to visit “parallel universes.” Some of these places are completely alien to us and the differences between them are vast. Yet, through his travels, it comes to light that many of those universes exist as they do based on a single person making one different choice there than they did in our universe. One minor change that reshapes that world.
On Yom Kippur, the Torah tells us to take two goats that seem to be identical to each other in every way. One goat we offer to God. The other we send far away.
Shvilei Pinchas says that one goat represents the soul’s good inclination: to do good and connect to its Creator, while the other represents the soul’s evil inclination: selfishness, lust, and other negative desires.
But if one goat represents our good desires and the other our evil ones, why do the goats look identical? Everything that Disney ever taught me says that all good things are naturally beautiful and perfect while evil things are gnarled and ugly. Shouldn’t we make an equally obvious distinction in our goats so no one gets confused as to which one is which?
The problem is that real life is not as cartoonishly in-your-face as a Disney movie. Good and evil are often not so easy to distinguish based on a surface level look. Even more confusing, they may originate from the exact same person…
On Yom Kippur we have a tremendous opportunity before us. We can choose the type of person we want to be: the one who follows his evil inclination, doing whatever feels good in the moment without concern for what is right, or the one who follows his good inclination, working on the parts of himself that don’t align with his ideal values.
We can imagine both of those two people existing in parallel universes from each other. One you that follows your good desires and the other you that follows your evil desires. Which version of yourself do you respect more? Which parallel universe is the better place for your friends and family?
The funny thing is, when Yom Kippur ends, other people may not see at first which version of yourself you decided to become. Like the two identical goats, the two versions of you look the same on the surface.
But don’t be fooled. You know that inside, there is a whole world of difference. And your entire universe will turn out differently based on the choice that you made.
Gamar chasima tova,
Rabbi A and the JET Team