It all seems like a joke, or a game we play sheepishly, looking around to see if everyone else is still playing too. Because if everyone would let up and stop making us look bad for honestly having no clue what we really did or how to really seek foregiveness, we'd stop right now.
Being in shul for hours on end on Yom Kippur, and even on Rosh HaShanah, is a game of chicken. We are too affraid to call HaShem's bluff so we sit through the whole thing as long as we possibly can, counting the pages, the minutes, the funny things the overly serious chazan does. Everyone else is doing it, so what choice do we have?
This isn't Teshuvah. It's not what Rosh HaShanah is meant to be and certainly not Yom Kippur.
When we sit in front of a computer, run a number of programs, visit some websites, check email, everything we do has a purpose. (More often than not the purpose is killing time, sadly, but that's a purpose, a lamentable purpose, all the same.) When we do something, something happens. Every click and every keypress has some effect. We send mail, Instant messages, blog, comment, etc.
What happens when suddenly something we're trying to do doesn't work?
Well, we know it's a computer, it's the internet, these are programs. All of them could be at fault and all of them are imperfect. The more we are familliar with them, the more options we have to try and work out what the hang up is. What's the problem, what's holding us back?
We try different programs (firefox, internet explorer) restart them, reconnect to the internet, restart the computer, see if we can reach other sites or if everything is temporarily inaccessible. In short, we know to play around with our digital environment.
That's what Teshuvah is supposed to be like.
We are meant to feel mitzwoth. We are meant to see their effects. If we find that a mitzwah isn't having its expected effect, we need to debug it, we need to figure out where we went wrong and do Teshuvah.
As long as we don't feel the mitzwoth, as long as we have no real personal relationship with HaShem, we're trying to google something without ever connecting to the internet. It just isn't going to work. But, if we don't even know we can go somewhere and do something, we don't even try.
Mitzwah comes from the word 'to bind.' With each mitzwah we bind ourselves to HaShem. Or that's the goal anyway. But that's only possible if we want to connect. I think we can all agree that HaShem wants to connect, which means its up to us. Do we want to connect?
I challenge anyone who reads this to take any one mitzwah and perform it, calling out to HaShem with everything you can muster. Do that same mitzwah as often as you can (or at least once a day) over and over until you get through.
This very well might be the first mitzwah you ever feel, but I can guarantee it won't be the last.
Once you start to really feel what it is to perform a mitzwah, not only will you want to seek out anything that separates you from an even deeper experience of the mitzwah, the performance of the mitzwah itself will help you discern what is wrong and what needs to be fixed.
Unlike computers, programs, and the internet, the Torah and mitzwoth are flawless and unbreakable. The only thing that stands in the way of our connection is whether or not we know how to use them. Each one is connected to the whole and bears within it the instructions to all the others. The more we perfect each one, the better we get at all the rest.
You don't have to feel helpless when it comes to Teshuvah, and you don't have to sit in shul twiddling your thumbs on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. You can be spending quality time with HaShem.
Let everyone else around you wonder how much more you can take and why you aren't getting bored. (And then be nice and maybe clue them in.)
Teshuvah isn't about feeling bad about things you don't understand, it's about eliminating whatever it is that is holding you back from getting through.