Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Asking for Forgiveness After Yom Kippur

I don't like being forced into things spiritually. I don't know if other people can relate to what I'm saying. If you do then please tell me, I'd love to know someone else feels like I do. It's possible that it's all part of a larger issue I have, which is not liking to be told what to do. Problem with authority I think they call it. It's not that I'm a disrespectful person. I have tremendous respect for people, but usually only people who have earned that respect.

When I was in high school I didn't automatically respect my teacher or principal. I needed to see that they were worthy of respect. I needed to see that they were good people and fair people. I needed to see that I would be getting something in return for that respect.

When it comes to my frumkeit I believe I have trouble moving away from that philosophy. Hashem should get my respect no matter what. He doesn't have to earn it, and even if he did, by all means, he created me and gave me so much, that in it itself should deserve respect.

But no matter how hard I try when it comes to certain things I still don't like to be forced into it. I don't like to do something just because we are told to, or because everyone else is doing it. When Erev Yom Kippur came around people were coming over to me with the same typical lines I hear every year. "I hope you will forgive me if I didn't anything wrong to you or offended or upset you in any way" Ya ya, wonderful, where is that will to make up 6 months from now.

Do these robotic trading of words actually mean anything? Aren't we saying them just because "it's that time of the year" and how insincere is that. I know most people mean it, and I know that even though it is "that" time of the year still people take it as a jump start to make amends with people they have wronged. But for me its just so hard to penetrate me.

I find it so hard to take these things seriously. Then Yom Kippur comes and goes and just like that we move from two incredibly holy and meaningful days to 8 days where the big tradition is eating in an outdoor hut and shaking palm branches and lemons.

It's like we turn off the switch so fast between Yom Kippur and Succos.

So here we are, and here I am. Still fighting the internal struggle of forcing myself to atone for my sins and make amends with those who I haven't got along with even though Yom Kippur is over and in a few days I'll be shaking a palm branch.

Do other people think about the spiritual efforts we underwent a few days ago today? How do we carry our determination to change into a holiday that seems to be so different yet so close in time.

Maybe the lesson to learn here is that Hashem is teaching us that we can't hold on to things. We have to teach ourselves to move on. Yom Kippur is as good a time as any to push ourselves to make up for our wrongs. Not because "were told we have to" but because why not, it doesn't hurt to have a designated time to let go of any grudged or disagreements.

Look at Hashem, he goes from a serious time when he judges all of his creations to a few days later when he wants us to just dance and be happy for what we have. Simchas Torah is so close to Yom Kippur but it couldn't be any different in terms of it's seriousness.

So I once again ask that if I upset or wronged anyone, I hope you will forgive me. Not because you have to, in fact Yom Kippur is over so you have 11 months and change not to forgive me. But because I don't want to hold on to anything.


Anonymous said...

Hey Chaim

Interesting post you've got going here.

I'm not sure that it really matters how serious (or unserious) anyone else takes the holidays. It is also impossible to really gauge another person's level of sincerity in terms of apologizing or making amends. More importantly I believe that it's irrelevant, at least in terms of my own spiritual work. It’s not my job to judge other people in terms of the quality or sincerity of their attempts to make amends to me or anyone else. My job is to work on myself and to make sure that my apologies and amends are as heartfelt as possible. For me personally when it comes to making amends it’s equally if not more important to make sure that the underlying foundations are being addressed and usually with me that means understanding the nature of my wrongdoing. This is important to me because I need to be accountable to myself so that I can learn from the mistake and work towards repairing the character flaws that led to the transgression.

So for me any perceived superficiality of other people is a relevant in terms of my own spiritual work around the Yom Kippur holiday. There are certainly numerous social and community aspects of the holidays which of course play into the rites and rituals of atonement but I don't think that's really what you're talking about.

The way I see it Yom Kippur is not about clearing the slate so much as it is about laying down the foundation for the next year. It doesn't make much sense to me at least to engage in the ritual of atonement and then put everything out of mind until the following year when things start up again. The atonement that I make might appease other people or it may come off as phony and superficial and that's fine. What's more important to me is that through every act of atonement I engage in I also develop insight into myself and how I get myself into situations where I act poorly. I think that's why we do it at the beginning of the year so that we can go into the year with a fresh understanding of who we are and what are spiritual goals and objectives can be.

Lastly I don't think this has anything to do with G-d forcing me to do anything it simply working with the nature and rhythms of my spiritual universe. Just like there's a time and a season for planting and harvesting it makes sense to me that there is a time in a season to begin fresh, cultivating my spiritual characteristics. I guess I kind of see it as a very agricultural endeavor where I'm a farmer growing up a crop of holy sparks. Hashem is not forcing me to do squat, rather simply encouraging me to work with the cycle and work the natural flow of things.

Be well

Anonymous said...

Hey Chaim, it's been a long time. I was reading TikkunGer's blog and he mentioned this post so I thought I'd stop by. I didn't comment the first time.

Later on today though, I was reading up on Sukkot and came across a good article on and one excerpt really made sense to me why we go so quickly from YK to Sukkos. Here is a quote from the article which can be found here

"Rabbi Israel Salanter once wrote that to be a good Jew one has to have every human quality and its opposite. The Torah does not consecrate prohibition; it offers the full range of human emotion and behavior. There is "a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Correct behavior consists of when one does all these acts and how."

I think this quote explains or supports the notion that the reason we go from one (seeming) extreme to the other is because G-d gave us the ability to do so. And we must, ideally, embrace all the abilities and gifts G-d gave us right?

I hope you found that at least thought provoking. I know that had I not read your post first, that quote may not have had the same level of meaning to me. So thank you for that, for raising my awareness.

Anonymous said...

We learn in Tractate Yoma that there are 3 methods of receiving forgiveness for our sins, and all 3 are predicated on doing 'tshuva', repentance, which in effect is a 4th method. One of the 3 is Yom Kippur. The mere fact that the day has rolled around. But only if one truly repents. If, by the way, one feels that he has what to repent, say now, he should do so immediately. The sin is then held until the following Yom Kippur when he will be forgiven.

So, levels of sincerety, idle davening and such, don't always help. Only real 'tshuva'. 'Tshuva' is based on 3 basic principles (as brought down in the 'Sefer Charedim'. Admition (is that spelled correctly?), requesting forgiveness and promising not to do the sin again.

Obviously, we are only human, and sometimes we repeat our sins.
But, we must be sincere in our desire to want to change.

Once we have done that, done 'tshuva' properly, why shouldn't we celebrate? The Torah says about Succos, 'V'samachta b'chagecha', you should be happy with your holidays. If we truly did 'tshuva' and have been forgiven all of our transgressions, then we can expect to have been written in the book of life for the year to come. That's a reason to celebrate.

As to honoring others, that is something that should be a given.
By honoring Hashem's creations, we are honoring Hashem himself.
Don't think that you have to honor someone because of his title or job. Do honor him because he is a human being, the product of creation. We are taught to always find the good in a person.
If we don't see bad in another, it's very easy to honor, and even to love him.

I would like to invite you and your readers to visit my blog,
thetzionisherrebbe. I have written a piece on this weeks Torah portion. I would love to hear what you all think about it. I hope to write about the weekly portion on a regular basis, and your feedback will help me to know if what I'm writing is o.k.

The Rebbe

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Saif said...

Cool...!! Really an interesting post you have written here. Actually forgiveness is a divine virtue. And to me forgiveness and the asking for forgive both are important. You can check out the interesting video Didn't realize the major effect forgiving has on our health.

Jenifar said...

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Have you seen this video ? It helped me get over my internal anger.