Day of Atonement   1 comment

It’s that time of year again. School has started, and fall has finally arrived. Rosh Hashanah has passed, and Yom Kippur is here.

(For those of you reading who are not of the Tribe, these are the holidays referred to by Jews all over the world as the High Holy Days – known in my synagogue as the HiHos, because, hey, why not? – Rosh Hashanah being the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement.)

In Catholicism, people confess their sins to a priest and are given prayers to recite as the sacrament of penance. As a Jew, I’m not sure why they have to go into a closet to do this – maybe it’s a pretense of anonymity? – but it’s traditional. Confession is relatively private, something that is only between you and your confessor.

Protestants confess directly to G-d without a go-between, believing their faith in Jesus is what saves them. Being saved is a personal thing, between you and G-d. While some people then choose to proclaim their personal relationship with Jesus from the rooftop, most prefer their private devotions be just that – private.

Jews handle atonement differently. We do it in synagogue. In Public. En Masse. While we don’t confess our individual sins aloud for the world to hear, the Yom Kippur liturgy is full of apologies – mostly to G-d – for our shortcomings as people, for those times we were selfish or haughty, the times we didn’t help someone less fortunate than ourselves, the times we turned away from G-d or the path of righteousness.

There are also the marginally more private acts of atonement, like requesting forgiveness from those you have hurt over the past year, whether the hurt be intentional or not. In this era of rampant social media, some choose to make their declaration on Facebook, putting their mea culpas out for the world to see. This has a couple of advantages as far as I can see. You cast a wide net and, as you don’t personally apologize to everyone you know or have met over the past year, you are spared potential embarrassment when they have no idea why you are telling them you are sorry. The downside is it doesn’t cover those not on social media (my parents, for example) or those acquaintances (or relatives) whose Friend requests you may have ignored somehow missed.

One of the more interesting things I have found about Yom Kippur is there is nothing in Judaism that says you have to offer forgiveness to someone who asks for it. Not one thing. There is agreement that any offered apology must be sincere; a throwaway ‘sorry’ isn’t going to cut it. Scholars clarify by saying if you offer a sincere apology three times, and the apology is refused each time, G-d takes this into account, and the refusal becomes the other person’s problem.

Now with all this talk about atoning and forgiving, I find it just as interesting (at least in the extremely limited research I did) that nothing seems to require you to forgive when you haven’t been asked.

And I’m sure if you are regular reader of this blog, you have a good idea where this is going.

It has been pointed out to me over the past several years that a number of studies have been done about the healing power of forgiveness, how holding on to your anger and pain hurts you more than the person who wronged you, and how not letting go can actually impact your health, and so on.

For the most part I agreed with these well-meaning people, nodding and smiling politely at them while I mentally categorized the reasons why forgiveness was neither deserved nor being offered. Not to mention it not having been asked for. (The few “I’m sorrys” thrown out during mediation certainly weren’t requests for forgiveness. Call me cynical, but they came across as more automatic than sincere. Mostly because it seemed to me at the time he was getting what he wanted while I was getting my life torn to shreds.)

Here’s where the direction of this post may surprise you. It sure as hell surprised me.

It has taken three years, four months, and twelve days, but I have finally forgiven my ex for leaving our marriage.

Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean I either understand what he did or like him any better for it, but when I was looking back over the past year during the silent reflection part of services, it occurred to me that many, if not all, of the good things that have happened in my life over the past twelve months – or, if I’m going to be honest, the last thirty or so – wouldn’t have occurred if I was still married. The interior and exterior renovations of the house? Nope. It took us nearly twenty years to get the house to the point where it was when he moved out. Some improvements and one hell of a kitchen renovation, yes, but the majority of the work has been done by me in the last three years. The trips? Again, no. With him in school and the three of us trying to make it on my salary without incurring massive amounts of debt? There’s no way. There wouldn’t have been enough money or time – or agreement on locations – for them to have happened.

Most important, though, are the changes I have seen in myself. Today, rather than being unsure and looking for validation that never came, I am more confident in myself and my abilities. I feel good about myself and how I look and feel, and I’m pretty sure if things hadn’t changed, I would still be uncertain and searching for solutions to fix myself.

I’m still not willing to look at my divorce as a gift, but I am also no longer looking at it as a failure on my part, just another part of my life. So, I guess next year at this time, I will have to reassess yet again and see where things stand then.

Oh, and for all of you reading, if I did or said anything over the past year that hurt you in any way, intentionally or unintentionally, please accept my sincere apology for my actions.

I’ll try to do better this year.

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Posted October 26, 2016 by wordsaremylife in holidays, random thoughts, religion

One response to “Day of Atonement

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  1. Pingback: Contract Negotiations | Tales of a Marathon Widow

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