Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Atonement - Jewish Style

Commuter Husband, Oldest Son, Youngest Son and I went to  the Kol Nidrei service last night (Yom Kippur Erev.)

As we prayed, I felt that familiar affirmation of the parts of Judaism that speak so very loudly to me.

For transgressions against G-d, the Day of Atonement atones; but for transgressions of one human being against another, the Day of Atonement does not atone until they have made peace with one another.

In my words: If you wrong another then you must seek forgiveness from that person. There is no other way. Righting a wrong is hard. Being Jewish means being accountable to others. But Judaism is practical too. If you sincerely ask another person for forgiveness 3 times then you have done all you can .

What is genuine repentance? When an opportunity for transgression occurs and we resist it, not out of fear or weakness, but because we have repented.

My struggle: I have been fighting this demon of late. We teach our children to say the words "I am sorry." We know that small children are not "really" sorry but the words are the start of a life long continuum. I am 47 and I know what the words mean. I know right from wrong. I know my weaknesses. I have changed much in my life. There are those parts left of me that are hard to change. Genuine repentance is hard.

In a Reform Jewish service, we have modern readings and this is one of my favorites on Yom Kippur:

Birth is a beginning and death a destination;
But life is a journey.
A going, a growing from stage to stage:
From childhood to maturity and youth to old age.

From innocence to awareness and ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion and then perhaps, to wisdom.
From weakness to strength or strength to weakness and often back again.
From health to sickness and back we pray, to health again.

From offense to forgiveness, from loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude, from pain to compassion.
From grief to understanding, from fear to faith;
From defeat to defeat to defeat, until, looking backward or ahead:

We see that victory lies not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey, stage by stage, a sacred pilgrimage.
Birth is a beginning and death a destination;
But life is a journey, a sacred pilgrimage,
Made stage by stage
...To life everlasting.

by Alvin Fine

My Thoughts: Judaism focuses on the person you are in this life. If you do what is right and good now then the rest will take care of itself. There is no other life in which to do the right thing. My purpose in life is to make the journey. It is not always easy or happy - sometimes it is hard but then the sweet moments are all the more joyful.

Shana Tova!

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