Yom Kippur begins tonight, and I haven't really had the time since Rosh Hashanah to contemplate what that should mean for me spiritually. What with my current schedule at work and the other usual chaos in my life, I've mostly only been able to plan for the basic necessities of keeping the holiday and the associated fast. (Truth to tell, Nomi has done more of the planning and preparation than I have.)
However, there's another way I've been looking at it, which is that I actually spent much of last year (on the Hebrew calendar) getting ready for Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, and part of the tradition is to seek forgiveness to those you have wronged (and to grant forgiveness to those who have wronged you). In general, we should all strive to be better people each and every day, but the Days of Awe leading up to Yom Kippur is specifically called out as a good time to do this. Many people during this time post general statements asking for forgiveness from those they have wronged.
I took this concept a step further last year, and oddly, it was spurred on because of my Harvard 25th reunion. As reunion was approaching last spring, I started to think about some of the wrongs I myself had committed upon friends and acquaintances, especially those in my class. I actually made a mental list and sought out those people at reunion to apologize for things I had done years ago.
I didn't limit my apologies to those classmates, though. I had one high school classmate as well whom I felt I had wrong, so I wrote a letter of apology and mailed it out. But in general, I made my apologies in person to my college classmates.
I discovered to my fascination that although my wrongs had weighed heavily on my mind for these past twenty-five years, almost every classmate found them irrelevant. One classmate remembered the event I wanted to apologize for but she dismissed it. Another classmate didn't even remember what I had done to him, but understood why I apologized and gave his forgiveness anyway. Essentially, I rediscovered the old adage that sometimes the person who commits the wrong is hurt by it more than the person who was wronged.
My classmates literally had forgotten or stopped caring about wrongs I had done to them, and I was carrying the burden of guilt for over two decades.
As it is, there are still apologies I want to make and for all I know, there are people out there to whom I need to apologize but will never realize it. All I can really do this Yom Kippur is my best. But because of my experiences this past year, I think I will be able to once again find some meaning in this holiday.
For those of you who are also observing, have an easy fast and may it be meaningful for you.