2 comments on “Yom Kippur

  1. Wallace says:

    I understand the concept of atonement, but what happens if the person you’ve offended refuse to forgive you? Do you have to say some sort of prayers to get absolution like a Catholic confession? Do you have to find out what they want to forgive you, such as if you broke someone’s favorite coffee cup and they want you to buy them the exact same cup before they’ll forgive you? Or what if you did something that can’t be undone or replaced, such as if you were in a car wreck that was your fault and you left the other driver crippled for life?

    I’ve always wondered about this since atonement is a two way street, you have to offer and they have to accept, but what happens if they don’t accept, or if they want something from you that either you can’t or won’t give them for their forgiveness? Now’s your chance to use all that studying to, figuratively, take a seat on the wall and discourse at length your opinion that might later be printed in the margins of the learned books.

    • Keri Peardon says:

      Well, I don’t have an opinion on the matter, because there’s already a protocol laid down.

      You are supposed to make restitution, if possible/necessary. So, if you broke someone’s coffee cup and apologize and they shrug it off and say they’ve got dozens, then you’re good. If, however, you break someone’s grandmother’s china, and they’re clearly distraught over it, it would be a good idea if, in addition to apologizing, you try to find a replacement piece. If you can’t find it or can’t afford it, then the apology alone will do.

      If you can’t apologize because you don’t know who you hurt (say you ran over a dog, but there was no ID tag on the collar), or you can’t find them (say you used to bully someone when you were in school and now that you’re older, you feel guilty about it, but don’t know where the person is), or it’s not appropriate to contact someone (say you killed another person while drunk driving; contacting the family may make them feel worse/angry by opening that wound), then the appropriate thing is to do some charity as repentance.

      So if you killed someone’s dog, you might volunteer or donate money to a local animal shelter or a group that places service dogs with handicapped people. Likewise, if you used to bully, you might donate to organizations that help educate kids about bullying and/or reach out to bullied kids. You might volunteer as a Big Brother/Sister to help kids that are having a hard life. Or, you can make a concerted effort to teach your kids not to bully by telling them what you used to do and how that makes you ashamed now. In the case where it’s not appropriate to offer an apology because of the magnitude of your crime, then you need to straighten up your life and spend the rest of it flying right and trying to be a good person in the hopes you might balance it out cosmically.

      What if the person won’t forgive you? As an example: you cheat on your wife and then feel horrible about it. You are truly remorseful and sincerely apologize. You vow to never let it happen again and are willing to go to counseling individually and with your wife. She decides not to divorce you, but every time you get in an argument with her or she wants something, she brings up the cheating incident. In other words, she doesn’t forgive you and brings up your sin every time she wants to punish you.

      In such a case–where someone refuses outright or by their actions to forgive you–then you are required to apologize three separate times. If, after that point, they won’t let it go, then it’s not your sin to worry about, but theirs. You have done what is required and if they hold onto their bitterness or hurt you because of it, then they are the one that’s at fault.

      (By the way, it’s perfectly acceptable for your wife to divorce you for cheating. Getting a divorce is not equal to not forgiving. You can forgive the act and still say that the relationship is ruined and can’t be salvaged. Likewise if a friend hurts you, you can forgive without remaining friends.)

      While there is a need to forgive, there is no need to forget in Judaism. There’s a Christian book called “The Shack,” that deals with that issue better than anything I’ve ever read. It’s about a man whose daughter was kidnapped and murdered and he loses faith in God. On a weekend retreat, he has an experience with God that helps him heal the hurt he’s been carrying around for years (hate for the murderer, anger at God, and blame of himself). It’s put this way: forgiving is not about saying that you’re okay with what the murderer did. Forgiving is not about forgetting what happened. Forgiving is not about not missing what was taken from you. Forgiving is letting go of the hate–not for the murderer’s sake, but for your own. Because if you carry that hate and anger around with you for too long, it doesn’t destroy the object of your hatred; it destroys you. Forgiving is saying, “I am no longer going to let this eat me up inside.” When we talk about grief, we refer to this as the “acceptance” stage.

      One of the prayers we say on Yom Kippur has this quote from Isaiah (God is speaking): “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” God doesn’t forgive us because we deserve it, but does it for Himself. Even God doesn’t want to stay angry all the time.

      BTW, God does not forgive your sins against other people; He will only forgive you for the sins you commit against Him.

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