Break Your Barriers - Kol Nidre

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Break You Barriers begins with a whimsical and instantly engaging metaphor: If you've visited an amusement park, you have likely wandered in to one of those the funhouse mirror-rooms. You stand in front of mirrors; they show you a bizarre and distorted caricature of your body. You laugh at the reflection because it is preposterous. It is both you and not you.

But what if you believed that the funhouse mirror showed the truth about the shape of the world, and your place in it?

You’d be horrified. Yet, in many ways, this kind of distortion afflicts our self-image in today’s society. When we define ourselves by the negative opinions and perceptions of the people around us, our view of ourselves is like the reflection in the crazy mirror.  We see things that aren’t there, and miss the beauty of the things that are. That is why the view we have of ourselves cannot come from others who are blind to the vast potential and resources we store in our soul.

In order to be a healthy person, in order to become a true leader, a person must recognize that he or she is not the product of what others think, but what our Creator thinks. G-d sees into our heart and reflects our highest potential and talents and capacities.  

Employing several dramatic and rich narratives from Tanach (the Hebrew is provided for your reference), this speech conveys the message that we are meant to look harder at ourselves and to recognize the holiness that each of us carries within us, the sacred beauty and potential of our inner selves. Yom Kippur is an invitation to abandon what others may be telling us and to perceive ourselves instead as G-d does. Don’t shrink back; G-d will help you break through your own barriers.

The speech concludes with a call to not be shy about our Yiddishkeit. "Our friends and family members may think it is foolish for us to celebrate our Judaism with passion. But our history reminds us that when it comes to celebrating your Judaism, don't be shy! And when you do others will join in, and it will be beautiful and contagiously joyous."  

This message is brought home with another dramatic and engaging anecdote from Tanach as well a deeply moving story in modern America. When it comes to celebrating your Judaism, don’t focus on what you imagine others are thinking, look at the divine message and celebrate, shine your light and you will move others to shine theirs. Together we will form a most beautiful symphony A symphony of Jewish celebration.

May G-d help us to see ourselves as He sees us, not as others do. May we rise above all the barriers that block us, so that we might help others rise above their own. And may we have the vision to see a better world, and the conviction to bring it to fruition.

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