Last week, Jews from all over the world planned their break fast (before the fast had even begun) and flocked to synagogues to pray for absolution from the dude of divinity.
Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement: The day we starve ourselves of distraction and allow our egos to soak in the tub of remorse. We believe if we soak long enough, God will write us in the exclusive book of good living for the year to come.
Since I was 8 years old (the first year I began fasting), I looked forward to this holy day; as a ‘type A’ self deprecator, I leaped at the chance to swim in shame.
The day before, I would load up on water and carbs like a marathon runner, to prepare myself for twenty-four hours of ‘deep reflection’ and thirst; it became a personal challenge to survive sundown to sundown without nourishment, as I thumbed through my prayer book, counted the number of hats in the room, shuffled my feet and snuck glimpses of the clock every fifteen minutes.
I was missing the point.
Five years ago, I got the point.
Through experience, I have learned the most valuable lesson of living: everything is purposeless until I give it a purpose and a reason; my prayers of exoneration are only heard if I believe them.
So, I stopped going to synagogue; instead of observing one day of remorseful nostalgia, I refrained from feeling guilty. I became accountable for my behavior, learned from it and decided to ask for forgiveness, every single day.
I grew tired of burdening myself with feelings of resentment and anger for something someone had done to me—or I had done to them. I started to trust that God had more faith in me, than a once-a year, half-assed offer of guilty admission and a good meal.
As my thirty-third Yom Kippur approached this year, I decided I would devote the day to understanding what forgiveness is, it’s importance and how my ego affects my ability to forgive myself and others.
I woke up Wednesday morning with fresh perspective: Yom Kippur is not just a day of atonement and judgment; it is a day of empowerment and choice. What choice do I make when I am asked to forgive my own—or another’s—actions of unawareness (also known as mistakes or sins)?
On this day, God knocks on the door of our hearts and asks us to make a choice.
We have the choice to ignore him and our past actions or, we can surrender to his compassionate all-knowingness, strip our ego naked and take accountability for our transgressions.
God continues to offer us the opportunity to be Holy, to be truthful. He never gives up. He knows we are capable of eternal compassion.
If we choose to answer the door, He will ask, “Do you have the courage to see the truth? Are you willing to be held responsible for the suffering within yourself and the suffering you have caused others and the world? You have the opportunity to change your future, if you are willing to reflect on your past and accept it in the present. If you ask for forgiveness for your actions of untruth, I will unlock the gates to a peaceful future.”
As I mature, I understand that God asks this question in every moment, of every day. He is always giving us the chance to see our pure essence and the capacity to marry our humanness with our holiness; balancing every action with mindfulness and discretion.
Without exception or expectation, he knocks, waiting to hand us the power to create peace through the process of acceptance and forgiveness.
Across all continents, cultures and faiths, those who have neared death, report the same experiences—they are consumed in a white light and presented a review of their life. The end of their life review a question is posed:
“How have you loved during your lifetime?”
This question is the reason I treat every day as Yom Kippur.
I visualize laying on my death bed surrounded by every person I have met in my life, myself included; I ponder what I would say as I take my last sips of air and listen to the faint echoed beats of my heart. There are five words—and only five words—to say: I love you. Forgive me.
This is the ultimate prayer, the song of my spirit; ‘I love you,’ the eternal whisper, ‘Forgive me,’ the cry of my soul bursting through my human armor.
Forgiveness is the key to unlocking the gates of life and releasing our spirit.
As we die, we attempt to make a first impression, as our last. We love fiercely and plea to be forgiven for the times we didn’t love enough. When our body dies, so does our ego. In the last moments of life, we are divine, all knowing—only love. We recognize life is blessed to us to cherish and care for, as we would a newborn baby.
Life is ‘not a right, it is a privilege.’ Every human is privileged to be alive. It is a fragile honor, one we inevitably take for granted. Yet, when we allow our spirit to be our guide, we will wake ourselves from our slumber of unconsciousness (ego).
When we wake, we honor the privilege and examine: “What did I do during my times of unawareness? How did I hurt? Who did I hurt?”
If we choose to respect our past actions as our greatest teacher, we exist in a constant state of forgiveness and awareness.
When we forgive ourselves for our actions or another for theirs, we eat the fruit of acceptance; within the fruit of acceptance, is the seed of freedom.
Freedom is enlightenment—it is a life of holiness and peace.
Shouldn’t every day be a day of forgiveness?
Forgiving is loving. Neither are meant to be imprisoned or withheld. Withholding love causes us to suffer. When we suffer, we inflict pain on ourselves and others. We have the choice to liberate ourselves through the action of forgiveness and end the suffering.
Forgiveness is the root from which the apology blossoms. Every apology we give, should feel like the last words we utter, leaving the legacy of our heart. An apology is as sacred as our last breath; as we inhale forgiveness, we exhale acceptance, fating us with a peaceful future.
A true apology does not carry the weight of the ego, it is free from its gravity. It is the declaration of the spirit. When the spirit is released from the grip of ego, our apology is embraced and we are forgiven.
On Wednesday evening, as the Book of Life was being sealed, I was driving home from my studio—I thought of all of the apologies I have given and received.
What was the difference between the accepted apologies and the rejected ones?
In order to ask someone for forgiveness, I must forgive myself for my actions of negligence (whether intentional or unintentional); I allow the acceptance to root inward first, “I am accountable.”
I must believe this, before I can turn to another and say, “Please forgive me.”
Accepting an apology or giving one, is not about claiming a right or a wrong—there is no winner when it comes to the heart—the heart doesn’t know how to compete, she only knows how to surrender.
Forgiveness is the action of surrendering to love.
It is imperative to omit any ifs, buts, or any other explanation from an apology, because it defecates all over it and makes unacceptable and unsanitary to accept. These words are not words, they are bloated excuses of the ego.
If someone tells me they are hurt by my actions, I should not fight their feelings. Their feelings are not my feelings. I have no right to tell them how to feel or how not to feel. If they are willing to tell me they are hurt, they are willing to forgive me.
As my four year old daughter says, “Forgiveness is telling someone, it’s ok.”
By saying I’m sorry, I am saying I am ok with accepting the hurt I have caused. The heart yearns for harmony. When I have the ability to deliver peace to a person or a situation, I should always do it.
Apologizing does not subtract from my worthiness, it reveals it. It is a testament to my humility, courage, ability to love unconditionally, and commitment to healing the world through peaceful devotion.
As I write this piece, I am reflecting on the day and observing my ‘Yom Kippur.’ Every evening before I go to bed I ask, “Why do I forgive myself today?”
My answer is, “I forgive myself because, I’m alive. With each breath, with every word I am impacting myself and those around me. I hope I have inspired today but maybe I have hurt too. Deprecation is a constant. Every day, he sneaks his way into my mind and slaps me with doubt. When I doubt, I shut the door on God, and for this, please forgive me for not seeing my whole heart and living within her. When I exist outside of my heart, I am not free, I suffer. When I suffer, I am capable of causing others to suffer. Tonight, please forgive me for being human and neglecting my holiness.”
‘I forgive,’ means ‘I love you.’
I must forgive what hinders my ability to love; love is always tainted by life.
This is the reason I have chosen to open my door to God in every moment, so I may see that every day is a holy day and a privilege.