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.