Most religious traditions have a practice of confessing our sins, releasing our guilt, forgiving one another and then moving on with life in a renewed way. In the Jewish religion, we just celebrated the holiday of Yom Kippur, which is designed to do exactly that. One of the aspects that I like about the tradition is that you can't just confess your sins to God and expect that everything is going to be fine with all of your friends and family. The requirement is that for sins against human beings, you actually have to ask for forgiveness before you are granted atonement.
For other sins against God however (like you didn't keep all 613 commandments every day during the past year), you can simply ask forgiveness, vow to change your ways and return to the right path, and then take action in the right direction and you will be forgiven. It's a three-step solution - returning to your highest self through prayer, repentance and charity.
We often talk about this process as "wiping the slate clean," an ancient reference to those old blackboards that we used to use in school (do they still have those??) What I remember about wiping the slate clean is that even after you erased the board, there were traces of the writing that was there before. Is it the same with us? Even when we forgive those closest to us, are there still reminders of the hurts that they have caused and that we have inflicted upon them? I believe it is possible to forgive, but do we ever truly forget?
It's interesting that tonight we begin the holiday of Sukkot, which was traditionally a time of harvest. To me, it's symbolic of the fact that even after you have been cleansed all of your transgressions, you must still reap what you have sown. Perhaps thinking about it in this way will make us less likely to act in hurtful or unthinking ways in the year to come. In any case, I wish all of you renewal and revitalization in all aspects of your lives. I hope to see you soon.
ps. As a follow-up to my last newsletter, my grandmother did pass away last month. Thank you to all of you for your overwhelming words of support and comfort.