As a 19 years old student at UC Davis I would drive 500 miles to and from San Diego several times. During one trip the freeway was empty, not a car in sight, mile after mile.
Soooo … I slowly started driving faster … and faster.
The weather was stereotypical sunny California skies and cool breezes.
Driving mom’s Toyota Cressida (what we all call Lexus today), blasting the “Beaches” soundtrack, with the windows and sunroof all open, I felt fully alive, free and incredible safe. It was wonderful!
At 106 mph I found the limits of my foolishness.
And after about 3 hours Officer Wills (of the California Highway Patrol) found me.
Just thinking back my heart starts pounding.
What can I say? I’m a goody-goody. I don’t break the rules. I’m excruciatingly polite. I’m patient with the most difficult people. I also always want EVERYONE to like me; displeasing others goes against my first-born-child people-pleasing mentality.
And here was a CHiP officer signaling me to pull over. I knew why. The only surprise was when he wrote the ticket for 103 mph because I’m certain cruise control was set to at least 106.
Alone, on the shoulder of the empty freeway, I accepted my ticket with a modicum of shock.
“What will my parents say?”
“Will they ever allow me to drive again?”
These questions filled me with dread.
I did something horribly dangerous and stupid and I was caught.
After I calmed down I realized I had a huge traffic violation; I think the ticket charged me with both speeding and reckless endangerment.
Yet … when the opportunity arrived to contest the ticket I submitted “innocent” and waited for court.
I know why I contested the ticket: Despite being guilty, 100% guilty, I hoped the judge might reduce my ticket. The fine alone would be significantly smaller and my insurance rates would remain affordable.
G-d set the stage for my “reasonable” request.
How many people were ahead me; twenty? Thirty? I don’t remember but since my maiden name begins with a “W,” I was the absolutely last person addressed.
For well over an hour, closer to two, one person after another, repeatedly, insisted they were innocent; Officer Wills was blind, deaf and possibly dumb too.
“It wasn’t me.”
“There was another red car two lanes over.”
“A different car flew past and the officer was confused.”
Over and over. On and on.
For close to two hours!
Through it all the judge and Officer Wills sat there, looking resigned, listening and watching.
One by one the judge declared each person guilty.
When my turn finally arrived I was relieved. I knew I was guilty. I wasn’t going to suggest otherwise.
I faced the judge and said, “Your Honor I was speeding. Officer Wills is right. I was driving at a dangerous speed. I’m contesting the ticket for financial reasons. Please consider reducing it.”
For a heartbeat the soaring court ceilings were silent.
I think the judge’s jaw dropped half an inch.
“Miss W. the court appreciates your candor. If Officer Wills agrees we’ll dismiss the whole thing.”
Turning to officer Wills for confirmation he proceeded to write down his decision and I was told I could pick up my paperwork from the clerk.
We KNOW there’s a day-in-court, we KNOW our cumulative mistakes will be called forth for an accounting, we KNOW we erred (often without noticing); so we step forward and loudly own everything.
We beat our chest and cry in relief.
At the same time BILLIONS of people are also called forth for judgment, every year.
I can’t imagine ten thousand; forget me trying to imagine billions.
Billions come before The Judge but only an itty bitty bit of us step up and admit our guilt.
Only a few of us regret thoughts, words and choices. Only a few of us come forward to ask for forgiveness. Only a few of us recognize there’s a heavenly court and a day of reckoning. Only a few of us recognize the opportunity offered.
Only a few of us grab the single most incredible and unimaginable gift of redemption.
The Heavenly Court must be shocked.
The silence in that vaulted courtroom echoes with our final prayers on Yom Kippur. (Nei’illa)
Our confessions gag our accusers.
As long as we verbally admit every possible erroneous thought, word and deed nothing remains to write an indictment.
I can see my human judge turning to the prosecution and asking, “Is there anything you want to add?”
If he attempts to emphasize one sin the judge will say, “That’s not surprising; Adrienne already told me that herself. Do you have any new information?”
Vidui certainly leaves nothing unsaid.