Cleaning My Slate With Forgiveness This Yom Kippur

There have been a few people who have hurt me pretty badly this past year; more this year than other years, actually. Jew in the City’s profile has risen over these last many months, and I think, or maybe I fear, that that thing they say, that “it’s lonely at the top,” is truer than I ever knew. It’s not that I’ve reached “the top” by any stretch of the imagination. But already through these small successes, I saw some real jealousy and negative reactions from people I had thought were allies, and that was really hard for me to swallow.

I’ve been trying to forgive these people all year. Every night before we go to bed, there’s a prayer we say to absolve those who have hurt us: Master of the Universe, I hereby forgive anyone who angered or antagonized me or who sinned against me in any way – whether against my body, my property, my honor or against anything of mine; whether he did so accidentally, willfully, carelessly, or purposely; whether through speech, deed, thought, or notion. And it’s been helping me let go little by little, but not enough. As Yom Kippur approaches, and I await the apologies that I know are due, the closer the holiday gets, the more I’m thinking they might not be coming from some of these people….

And then I think about Yom Kippur and its “clean slate.” What a remarkable gift that is offered to us! As far back as I can remember, I have known that we get a “clean slate” on Yom Kippur if we do “teshuva.” If we reflect and apologize to those we wronged and commit to changing, God gives us a fresh start for the new year. But I just realized something today: I can do all the teshuva I want from today until tomorrow, but I can’t make the people who hurt me do teshuva. I can’t make them recognize or apologize or commit to not hurting me again.

And that leaves me in a bind, because if I continue to hold onto those sour feelings, my slate won’t exactly be clean. It will be free of my shmutz, but not theirs. God can wipe away my mistakes if I properly do teshuva, but only I can let go of the hurt that has been done to me. And I don’t want to hold onto it any more. So as I reflect and atone and set goals for myself this Yom Kippur, I will focus especially on forgiveness. I’ve been going through this process slowly, but I will make Yom Kippur (to the best of my ability) my clean break from the junk I’ve been carrying because I want to leave last year’s messes – both the ones I caused and the ones I didn’t – in last year.

God willing, this will be a new year filled with wonderful things. There will be mistakes, but God willing also successes and likely some more negative reactions from those successes. And if I’m still holding onto last year’s baggage, how will I have the capacity to grab onto whatever this new year throws my way?

Wishing you and yours the blessing of leaving last year’s pain behind where it belongs, in the past. And may you be sealed in the Book of Life.

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  • Avatar photo Kate says on September 12, 2013

    I’m very sorry that you have been hurting. I just want to throw this out as food for thought: Perhaps the other party/parties feel it is two-sided and is/are also waiting for you to apologize for your wrongs? It is always easier (and I know I’m guilty of it!) to focus on what the other person did rather than our own actions. Sometimes we need to hear it said aloud in order for it to ‘click’ and realize that we messed up, too. With just over a full day until Yom Kippur begins, I guess the big question is, would G-d have us wait around for the other person, or would He prefer we take the first step? Even if you think there is no chance they’ll respond, a quick message along the lines of, “Hey, I know we’ve had our problems. I also know there’s no way we can resolve everything before Yom Kippur, but I want to apologize for anything I did or said to hurt you. I’d also like to thank you for being in my life for (insert period of time here) and for (anything specific here, e.g. attending a wedding, bris, helping out any time, etc.). I wish you happiness in the coming year.”

    I know this will seem really hard and it won’t feel fair for you to apologize. And there is no guarantee that it will give you any positive results–at least from them. Take it from someone who has struggled with the same sorts of issues. Knowing that you honestly tried, and did what you could to leave it on a positive note, is SO satisfying and healing, especially because you know you are acting in a way that makes your Father proud. Best of luck!

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on September 12, 2013

      Thanks for your comment, Kate. I’ve apologized to people already for things I’ve done wrong. I have even apologized to people I did nothing wrong to and stood there and they said nothing in response.

      With these few things I’m talking about here though, they were along the lines of betrayal, back-stabbing, caught me blinded-sided. I’ve worked out one issue with one person, thankfully, who apologized independently and I feel much better now. The rest I will just wipe away as best I can.

      • Avatar photo Bob J says on September 20, 2015

        It’s so odd to read postings from two years ago in which I find much relevance… Your experience, feelings and challenges are mine: betrayal, back-stabbing, blind-siding me, and objective and incontrovertible cruelty. In my case infidelity and betrayal bu a friend was involved.

        There has been little in the way of apology and I expect none. Yet what’s paramount, if you will, what G-d wants…, is oseh chaim, to find life and to live… Truly, I believe Hashem wants us not to not dwell, but to bring good things to others and to ourselves and to find joy and meaning in our days.

        Though anger and for some–like me, hatred, can be recurrent with the thoughts, “Why me?” and “they deserve … (fill in the blank),” tears are also part of the cleansing process, realizing that others, like you, have endured and gone on & been able la’asot chaim. They have formed “healing plates” over those wounds and learned again to focus on “G-d’s work.”

        It is the most challenging process I’ve ever endured and the hardest work. I need role models. In the final analysis, re-commitment to what’s good and right and pure is not only essential; it is life giving.

        When Katie suggested that we communicate the following… “Hey, I know we’ve had our problems. I also know there’s no way we can resolve everything before Yom Kippur, but I want to apologize for anything I did or said to hurt you. I’d also like to thank you for being in my life for (insert period of time here) and for (anything specific here, e.g. attending a wedding, bris, helping out any time, etc.). I wish you happiness in the coming year.” …I thought that although “Baruch Dayan ha emet” seems most appropriate, cleansing my slate as thoroughly as I can is my first responsibility.

        Though I feel foolish for my naivete, and also for my trust, I am proud of my commitment even though it was for nought. I am proud of where I am from (my family) and the values and care that I embody. My only possible path is tikun olam, beginning with myself… and then with my community which wishes me whole again.

        “Wiping the rest away as best I can…”? I don’ know that I can do that. But I can perhaps segregate the experience as a memorial, as I move away and move on, one day remembering the good, saying “this is G-d’s will (Baruch dayan ha emet),” integrating the unacceptable reality and going forward. And I am getting there, more each day. I’m thankful to both of you for encountering your posts.


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