Is it a sex blog? A mommy blog? A bitch & moan blog? Um, . . . yeah. This is my place to be totally honest. In my real life, I feel like I'm always lying to somebody about something. Here, I am totally honest. Brutally so. However, no matter what bad things I say about my kids, I adore them and would never ever really, say, sell them on Ebay. The husband, often referred to as Spousehole, is another story. Oh yeah - if you are under 18 (or if you are my husband), please leave now.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Atonement and Forgiveness

Sundown tonight marks Rosh Hashanah for Jews the world over. I love the ideas behind Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The concept of atoning for our sins, being forgiven (hopefully), and starting anew with wishes for a sweet and fruitful year is highly appealing. (Or maybe I just like the food. Honey - mmmmm.)

I am not Jewish, of course, but my faith journey has taken me down many paths. Many of my college and law school friends were Jewish. Part of our friendships included sharing, comparing, and contrasting our faiths and partaking of one another's rituals. I miss that in my current home, where I have few friends of other faiths, which is largely a result of the Christian homogeneity of my area.

During this time of year, our Jewish friends look back on the year and acknowledge their mistakes, their sins against man and against God. Don't we all need to take the time to recognize our mistakes and own them? I love how this is expressed in the last third of the poem "To The Mistakes" by W. S. Merwin, as spoken to the mistakes:

you are the ones who
are really my own
never will leave me
forever after
or ever belong
to anyone else
you are the ones
I must have needed
the ones who led me
in spite of all that
was said about you
placing my footsteps
on the only way

W.S. Merwin, as published in Twenty Poems to Nourish Your Soul, p. 53.

Part of what I love about Rosh Hashanah is the obligation to apologize directly to those you have wronged, so you may have a clean slate for the new year. So many Christians apologize to God, and ask forgiveness from God, for their sins, as we are taught. But Jewish tradition teaches that it is fruitless to ask forgiveness from God when it is a person you have wronged. You must apologize to and seek forgiveness from that person before turning to God to wipe the slate clean. (I realize that this conflicts with the Christian concept of Grace being freely given, etc. but just work with me here.) Think how much better people would get along and how much more peaceful life could be if we all admitted our sins against one another and asked forgiveness. Even if the forgiveness is not granted, wouldn't we feel better for having tried?

I know this has worked for me in my relationship with Spousehole. I regularly forgive him for things for which he has never apologized and will never apologize, because I don't think we can make any progress if I do not. It is my obligation as a Christian and necessary for my own well-being. He, however, does not forgive me anything, ever, forever dwelling on my misdeeds and stewing in his own anger. Over the years I have apologized and all but begged forgiveness. I do not expect him to forget the ways I have wronged him, but is forgiveness so much to ask?

Jewish tradition also provides that once one has apologized three times to someone, he or she is relieved of the responsibility of further atonement, even if forgiveness has not been forthcoming. I have apologized and asked forgiveness more than three times (per transgression), but forgiveness has not been forthcoming. (I sometimes wonder if he even has the capacity to forgive. I just don't know.) But I have resolved to stop asking forgiveness for those things for which I have apologized three times. I won't drag myself down that road anymore. At this point, it is his problem, not mine. I give it to God to sort out.

To all my Jewish friends and readers, Happy Rosh Hashanah and best wishes for the year 5768!


Edtime Stories said...

wonderful post and the beauty of the jewish concept of forgiveness is one that should resonant with many.

G-Man said...

This was a great post!!
I really enjoyed reading it...Thanks..xox

Dial-Up Princess said...

very nice post...and by your description there is definite beauty in the Jewish concept of forgiveness. :)

Kiki said...

What a great post. I think everyone should read this post. I never knew what Rosh Hashanah was about until now. I like the idea of asking the Wronged for forgiveness before whichever God(s) one praises. And it shouldnt be confined to one day. It is something that should be lived, not practiced.

ArtfulSub said...

There are Jewish Lawyers these days? Grrherhahahahahahahahhaaha

Just kidding. Great post. There's much we can learn from and admire about Jewish traditions.