Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
We love to be right. All the uprightness, justice, and truth belong to us alone, while the lack of these is found only in others. They are the ones who need to change their ways while we are perfect. Rav Menachem Brod writes that this is precisely the revolution that takes place at this time of year:
“Once a year we gather in the middle of the night to say Slichot (special prayers prior to Rosh HaShana) and the self-righteousness with which we covered ourselves during the year quickly melts away. With bowed head we declare: ‘To You, O Lord, is the righteousness, and to us is the humiliation’ (Daniel 9:7). The feeling of self-righteousness with which we are filled, as individuals and as a community, blocks us from listening to criticism, from seeing ourselves as deficient, from understanding that others also have points of light and beauty. We are so sure of ourselves that before we manage to hear and to internalize any sort of critical message, we already return fire and attack. We remain in the right, but we did not learn a thing.
Those who have a true desire for spiritual elevation do not cover themselves with a robe of self-righteousness, but rather aspire to receive rebuke and criticism. The days of Slichot make it possible for us to open our hearts, to look honestly at ourselves, and to crack our armor of self-righteousness. This is the key to self-improvement, to connect with others, and to have a good and sweet year.”