Sunday, October 01, 2006

Forgiveness

Although I'm not the most observant Jew these days, there's a lot I love about being Jewish. Apart from the joy that accompanies every celebration, the great food (NOT gefilte fish, but the really good stuff), the tradition, the community, all of it, it's just a religion that makes sense to me. Growing up in a traditional Jewish family, I had a pretty extensive Jewish education. And although Hebrew school is as much social as it is educational, if not more so, a lot of what they taught seemed to stick. Add to that my own experience with a pretty observant extended family, and exposure to both Orthodox and Reform Judaism, as well as the Conservative temple that I grew up in, and I know enough about this complex religion to know that it works for me.

Case in point is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year. Today. Yom Kippur falls 10 days after the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, and is a day where we ask God to forgive us for the sins we have committed against Him, and to inscribe us and our loved ones in the book of life for the coming year. Although it involves a 25 hour fast (there are many exemptions to this for those who are pregnant, elderly, nursing and/or infirm) and almost as many hours in a synagogue, it's a good way to start the year. You make your peace with God, the slate is wiped clean, and the new year is yours to do with as you like. Judaism is a religion of freedom and choices, and you alone can direct the course of the coming year.

Here's the clincher about Yom Kippur, and the part that makes it seem so logical to me. While you can pray and fast and earn God's forgiveness, that forgiveness only goes as far as the sins that you've committed against Him. So if you've sinned against another person, you're to use the 10 days before Yom Kippur to find that person, be accountable, and make amends, in the hopes that he or she will forgive you. Only he or she has that power. That's right, even God almighty is powerless to intervene if you've wronged another person. And each person holds a power that God cannot possess: that of forgiving one who's transgressed against him or her. But as you think it through, you realize that if God can forgive us the sins that we commit, knowingly or unknowingly every day, shouldn't we also forgive those who come to us with sincere contrition, bothered by the fact that they may have hurt us, and ask for another chance? Doesn't that act bring us just a little closer to God?

Believe it or not, I hate discussing religion. I think it's so personal, so private, that I hate to talk about it with most people. I hate explaining it, or feeling like I have to defend it. There are parts that I'm not even sure of my own views about, and parts that I feel guilty about, and much I struggle with. In addition, unlike most religions, Jews are discouraged, if not outright forbidden, to proselytize. But observing Yom Kippur is one of the things I love about being Jewish. My observance of this holiday as an adult is a bit different from how my parents observed it as we grew up, and I'm sure it will evolve as my own kids get older. But I don't think contrition and forgiveness are strictly Jewish issues. In fact, if I've offended anyone by anything I've written in this blog, I sincerely apologize.

To all who are fasting, I hope it goes quickly and easily. And may we all be inscribed in the book of life for the year to come.

3 comments:

Lissa said...

Beautifully written Torreh.

Hugs,
Lissa

OneScrappyChick said...

I agree with Lissa.. blessings to you and yours.

skrpndiva said...

I third that! What a beautifully written blog.