Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is considered the holiest day of the year in Judaism. On this day, it is believed that God finalizes and seals the Book of Life and Death for the upcoming year. Therefore, Yom Kippur is not a holiday, but rather a day dedicated to seeking forgiveness and expressing repentance for sins committed in the past year. On Yom Kippur we remove ourselves from our everyday life to devote as much of ourselves as possible to God. The greatest demonstration of this devotion is shown through fasting for over 25 hours and engaging in prayers throughout the day.
However, it must be noted that on Yom Kippur, God has the ability to erase the sins that were committed against him in the past year. If we genuinely want to come out of Yom Kippur and begin the Jewish New Year completely virtuous and pure, it is our responsibility to seek forgiveness from those we have wronged in the past year and sincerely accept apologies from those asking us for forgiveness. In this way, we start the new year free from any grudges, resentment, or hate that threatened our wellbeing in the previous year.
While Yom Kippur has always been a meaningful day, this year, it is significantly more important for me to ask for forgiveness and let go of grudges because Yom Kippur falls on my birthday. My 18th year of life was a difficult year for many reasons, and let's just say I have a lot of reflection to do. I am excited for a fresh start for not only the Jewish New Year but for my new year of life as well. Therefore, asking others for forgiveness, accepting apologies, and deciding what I want to bring into this new year versus what I need to leave behind is more important to me this year.
When asking for forgiveness, remember:
- Swallow your pride.
It is human nature to make mistakes, but you must let go of your ego to apologize. Art critic John Ruskin put it best: “It is better to lose your pride with someone you love rather than to lose someone you love with your useless pride.” Understanding that you have to apologize is one thing, but actually getting over your ego is so much harder (and so much more important) than we realize.
- Speak from the heart.
No one wants to hear a meaningless, indifferent apology. Make sure you truly mean what you are saying and genuinely understand the reasons behind your apology. Always be honest with yourself and the other person and never make amends with ulterior motive.
- There is no right time to apologize.
The most important thing I learned from my journey of seeking repentance this year is that it is okay if you are not ready to apologize to someone. Whether there is hurt attached to this person, wounds that are too fresh to be reopened, or literally any other reason, do not put yourself down or feel defeated. As hard as I tried, there is one person that I cannot convince myself to reach out to, but it is okay because there is always tomorrow, the day after that, and even next year. There is no correct timeline for giving or even accepting apologies. Remember to take it one day at a time.
Asking others for forgiveness should not be limited to significant days like Yom Kippur or birthdays. Asking for forgiveness offers a new, therapeutic start any day of the year and has the power to restore relationships that grudges have imperiled. Every day gives people the opportunity to start over and express sorrow, regret and repentance to others, we just need to learn how to take advantage of it.