On Yom Kippur, we are given the opportunity to assess our lives. We reflect on the past twelve months and contemplate the ones to come. Some of the things that happen to us in the course of the year are within our ability to guide, while others are not.
We should evaluate the events of our lives and take an honest accounting of them. Over what are we “in charge”? I look around my home, my neighborhood, my office, my physical and my virtual communities, my “little” world and I wonder…
Who will be born and who will die?
Who will have an easy time and who will struggle?
Who will be healthy and who will be ill?
Who will graduate and who will be held back?
Who will get married and who will get divorced?
Who will get hired and who will be fired?
Who will get promoted and who will be demoted?
Who will embrace change and who will be stuck in the past?
Who will become rich and who will become poor?
Who will feel blessed and who will feel cursed?
Who will learn from mistakes and who will repeat them?
Who will sleep soundly and who will toss and turn all night long?
Who will be happy and who will not be?
If I encounter successes this year, how will I show appreciation of my good fortune? If I suffer from setbacks, how will I find ways to rebound and overcome these challenges? And, if – God forbid! – I pass away this year, what kind of memories and legacy will I leave behind? I may not be able to control everything that might happen, but I certainly can determine how I will choose to prepare and respond.
In synagogue, we will beat our chests, confess, and seek atonement for having committed a multitude of sins. (My Catholic acquaintances think a once-a-year confession is awesome, while many of my Jewish ones are skeptical.) The sins highlighted in the prayer book fall into three main categories; those that are committed through our thoughts, our words, or our deeds. We also are forced to confront how we committed these offenses: intentionally, unintentionally, or by reason of temporary insanity.
As I take stock, I am grateful that my wrongdoings do not come as a result of deliberate actions (e.g. plan a heist and rob a bank). I know right from wrong; moral from immoral; ethical from unethical. When I drove through a red light and was pulled over by a police officer a few months ago, I truly had not seen the light change on that rainy day. I gladly paid my fine.
But, honestly, I know that I inadvertently hurt or offend people by what I say (or do not say) or how I say things sometimes. I know that I unconsciously hurt or offend people by what I do (or do not do) sometimes. These are all things that I can – and should – control. For wounds that I’ve inflicted, I sincerely am sorry. I promise that they were not perpetrated intentionally or deliberately. I promise to try to be and to do better this time around. I hope I will be forgiven and afforded the opportunity to change. However, at the same time, I know that I’ve been judged harshly, unfairly, wrongly by others who will NEVER apologize to me. In those cases, I must find a way to forgive — even if it means severing ties to move on.
This Yom Kippur, I hope we all will embark on a path of pursing self-improvement and seeking – and granting – forgiveness. Let’s appreciate each and every day, and promise to be nicer and gentler to each other.
G’mar Hatimah Tovah.