Last night began the highest of holiest holidays in the Jewish religion - Yom Kippur. It's our Day of Atonement, when we ask Man and God for forgiveness of the sins of our year and our lives. It's a day when we make a sacrifice to God by fasting in the hopes that our sins are forgiven. Contrary to Christianity, our sins aren't washed away by someone else's blood. Our sins are our own until God Himself sees us fit to be forgiven. I find it much more meaningful and satisfying being a Jew.
Since I am not a member of any Synagogue here in Tulare County (although there are two), I'm spending Yom Kippur alone, and am glad for it. It's a day of reflection, contemplation and planning. I sit here with my Siddur and read the Shabbos prayer for Repentance, a perfect call to God for forgiveness:
Holy and awesome God, we stand in Your presence filled with regret for our many sins and failings. Though there is greatness in us, and a deep longing for goodness, we have often denied our better selves and refused to hear Your voice within us calling us to rise to the full height of our humanity.
For there is weakness in us, as well as strength. At times we choose to walk in darkness, our vision obscured. We do not car to look within, and we are unwilling to look beyond at those who need our help. O God, we are too weak to walk unaided. Be with us as a strong and wise Friend, and teach us to walk by the light of Your truth.
Lord our God and God of all generations, help us to break the hold that the impulse to do evil has upon our hearts. For You have created us able to do Your will. But in our nature there is a wayward spirit that hinders us and keeps us from doing what we should. O Lord Our God, help us to subdue it, so that we may, with a whole heart, make Your will our own.
So for today, I must ask all who have been wronged by me in the past year, my sons, my students, my family, my employers, my ex-husband, my friends both near and far, my mentors and muses, to please find forgiveness and look upon me as God does. We are not perfect beings, and thereby having our Day of Atonement is the most important day of the year so that we may know a better life, a more beautiful life filled with joy and laughter, music and art, love and passion. I pray that God has mercy upon me to forgive my sins, clean my slate, and allow me to begin again. For tomorrow will be more mistakes made, as I am human, but made in Your image so that I know I am beautifully and wonderfully made.
As such, I forgive all sins made against me this past year. I chose to look upon those I love with the Eyes of God. All debts be forgiven; all hurt feelings turn to love; all evil words spoken erased; and all material things taken forgotten. Today shall be about love and forgiveness and quiet reflection. Even sitting here in a place I no longer wish to be, a city I long to leave and a house that doesn't feel like a home, today they shall be all those things and more. Today I look upon all things in my life with the Eyes of God, and give absolute forgiveness and love.
Suddenly, the room got brighter, my shoulders lighter and I know God loves me. Thank you, Hashem, for loving me so much and so unconditionally that I can hopefully one day love myself as I love others. My goal for this new year is to find that love for myself, respect for myself, and to honor others above myself. As I prepare to leave this country to help those in more need than I, let me find all the strength, love and courage through my God, my friends and my family. May my sons come to an understanding of what I must do and where I must go, and that they will be with me always.
May we also, as a human race, forgive each other all over the world. May we come to understand what true Tikkun Olam really is all about - repairing the world. May the leaders of all the countries of our planet come to see that we're all the same. We all bleed the same blood when spilled; we all need the same resources; we all cry the same tears at loss. I pray that somehow this world sees each other through whatever God or god they believe in and find Truth in, and can come to love each other not only for what we have in common, but for the love of our differences. This Earth needs more healing than it's inhabitants do, and I pray this will be a year of world healing. Hope is never lost.
I wish for love, joy, happiness and blessings for you all. When we are oppressed by heavy burdens, or come to doubt the value of life, are tempted to turn our heads away from evil and when we become immersed in material cares and worldly pleasures, I pray that we will turn to God for light, understanding, guidance and meaning so that we may have a complete and fulfilled life.
Avinu Malkeinu, be gracious to us and answer us, for there is little merit in us. Treat us generously and with kindness, and be our help.
Amen, and God bless everyone today and always.