Growing up, I used to love this time of year. In the Bay Area, as the temperature began to cool down a little, I remember distinctly feeling a sense of hope and renewal as the start of the school year came around after Labor Day and soccer season was just beginning. There were new experiences to be had in the “year ahead.” As I reflect back on this now, I have just realized the similarities that this had to what our Jewish tradition teaches us at this time of the year.
Last week, we entered into 5782, a new year on the Hebrew calendar. And with it the same feeling of opportunities and experiences that we can have in the year ahead. In fact, we are told that 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, these 10 Days of Awe, are some of the holiest in the entire year. It is during this time that we have an opportunity to finish our reflection on the year that was and what we hope for in the year to come. And, more specifically, it is during this time that we are instructed to ask forgiveness - not just from G-d, but also from our self and from others. This is a powerful concept that some people often struggle with.
The “tradition” of asking for forgiveness comes from the concept and the literal meaning of the word teshuvah, to turn. We are taught that we need to turn from how we acted in the past year and commit to not re-turn to those actions in the year ahead. To put it another way, as one of my former students so eloquently stated during a class discussion, teshuvah means to “Go Different.”
I believe that this year’s “asks” for forgiveness, and how we respond to those asks, are going to be even more difficult because of the climate and situation we find ourselves in these days. Our world has become even more polarized than ever before and people continue to question what they hear and read. Will that filter down as people ask for forgiveness to family and friends? Will someone’s sincerity be questioned? I sure hope not.
In the days ahead, I know I am going to do my best, as I would encourage all of us to do, to accept the apology in the spirit in which it is given and believe in the fact that if someone is reaching out and asking for forgiveness, especially at this time of the year, they are truly sorry that they may have hurt or wronged us.
Here’s to an incredible start to our new year that is full of hopes and endless possibilities. G’mar Chatimah Tovah… may each of us be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good and healthy year ahead.