DURING THE MONTH before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Jews are encouraged to examine their lives and determine how they might live a more exemplary, holy life in the coming year.
Much like our secular New Year’s resolutions, we commit to making changes.
There are two aspects to this process: One is to apologize, and the other is to “let go.”
It’s traditional to personally approach individuals and apologize for any of our hurtful actions or words.
On Yom Kippur we acknowledge our shortcomings to God and express sorrow for “missing the mark,” the meaning of the Hebrew word “chet,” or sin.
Apologies are never easy. It takes self-reflection and courage to admit that we have made mistakes.
I remember when I had been unfair or too harsh with my children, seeing relief in their faces and love in their eyes when I was able to say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry.”
Despite those who say apologizing shows weakness, it actually exhibits strength.
We should admire those who can acknowledge their mistakes and say they’re sorry.
It’s also important to look for this quality in our leaders.
True leadership is shown through the strength, courage and humility to admit missteps and promise to make changes.
The second aspect of making amends is to forgive.
We often have trouble letting go of the hurts we have suffered from others and ruminate on the pain we’ve suffered because of them.
But even harder sometimes is to forgive ourselves.
Once we can admit our mistakes and apologize, we need to learn to let go.
This is almost as difficult as apologizing.
We tend to “beat ourselves up” over our past, focusing on how things could have been different if only we had acted differently.
Letting go is a liberating process, allowing us to move on with our lives.
“In the end what matters most is how well did you love, how well did you live, how well did you learn to let go.” (Dalai Lama)
The following story is a perfect illustration: “Two monks were on a pilgrimage. One day, they came to a deep river. At the edge of the river, a young woman sat weeping because she was afraid to cross the river without help. She begged the two monks to help her.
“The younger monk turned his back. The members of their order were forbidden to touch a woman.
“But the older monk picked up the woman without a word and carried her across the river. He put her down on the far side and continued his journey.
“The younger monk came after him, scolding him and berating him for breaking his vows. He went on this way for a long time.
“Finally, at the end of the day the older monk turned to the younger one. ‘I only carried her across the river. You have been carrying her all day.’ ” (source unknown)
Our world would be a better place if we would reflect on our behaviors, accept responsibility for our errors, apologize and then forgive, not only others but ourselves.
Kein yehi ratzon … may it be God’s will. Shalom.
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by four religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Suzanne DeBey is a lay leader of the Port Angeles Jewish community.