Forgiveness for Almost Everything
Yael Eckstein | September 18, 2020
“…because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins.” — Leviticus 16:30
This month, Jews around the world will observe the High Holy Days, which begin today at sundown with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and conclude ten days later on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is a time of great reflection and introspection for us. I’m sharing with you weekly devotions based on my book, Generation to Generation: Passing on the Legacy of Faith to Our Children, about the High Holy Days, and the lessons of repentance and forgiveness which are central to this holy time.
The High Holy Days season, which we are in right now, begins a full month before the holidays. The month leading up to the holy days is a time for reflection and repentance as we prepare for Rosh Hashanah, which is also known as Judgement Day, followed by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. While Yom Kippur is the most solemn day of the season, it is also celebratory. On this day, if we have sincerely repented for our sins, God will forgive us for everything.
Well, not quite everything.
When it comes to our relationship with God, He can grant forgiveness for everything. But God does not forgive our wrongdoings to other human beings until we have asked for forgiveness from the person or people we have harmed. We are required to seek forgiveness up to three times, and then God will grant forgiveness even if it is not granted by the person we have wronged.
This is why, as the New Year approaches, asking forgiveness becomes commonplace in Jewish communities. It is common in Jewish schools that principals, teachers, and other authority figures in the lives of our children ask for forgiveness in case they inadvertently hurt a child’s feelings. Imagine the impact that has upon a child — seeing the adults and authorities in their lives humbly asking for forgiveness!
In addition, my children and their friends will exchange apologies in advance of the holidays. And while the apologies may come more from a place of tradition instead of sincere regret, this practice trains our children to ask forgiveness and to forgive. It gives them the tools to become mature adults who are able to humble themselves when they are wrong and make amends.
Having 40 days out of every year when our entire faith community focuses on asking forgiveness from God and from others has helped immeasurably in guiding my children to be comfortable with apologizing. Moreover, it is a reminder to all of us that if we have been putting off asking forgiveness from someone, the time is now.
The promise of the holiday season is that God can wipe the slate clean and we can have a fresh start. But first, we must take responsibility and make amends for our past. Only then can we enjoy a brighter future.
Reflect on the past year and notice if there is anyone who you may have wronged — intentionally or unintentionally — and then, ask for forgiveness.