Reflections But No Apologies

This time of year always becomes highly reflective for me. Even amongst the chaos of house renovations, back to school and cottage commuting I can still find the time to examine my behaviour over the previous year. I think that I am a stern judge because I always fall short of my expectations. As I stand in schul reading off the Alcheits and giving myself a good little knock on the chest for each one I remain steadfast in my knowledge that I have never demanded usurous interest nor have I ever RUN to do evil. All else seems open to interpretation to me.

But right now I want to travel in to the past. Roughly 35 years ago I had a wonderful hebrew teacher. I don’t know how this orthodox rabbi ended up teaching Sunday school at a conservative synagogue, but I was lucky enough to end up in his class. I drove my parents crazy that year with the constant litany of “Rabbi B… says…””

One lesson that stuck with me was the need to apologize before Rosh Hashanah to our friends and family for any unintentional slights or hurt that we may have caused them. So every year I resolutely asked my family and friends for forgiveness. My closest friend in high school would laugh indulgently as she granted me her yearly forgiveness.

One year it all changed. When in my twenties I asked my dad for forgiveness. He shocked me by saying, “No, it’s not up to me it’s up to G-d to forgive you.” Stunned, I reminded him that he alone could forgive me for my sins against him. He remained firm in his decision to abdicate all forgiveness to G-d. I have to admit that this threw me into a little tail spin. I sat and reviewed my behaviour for the past year trying to figure out what had changed. What had I done that was unforgivable? Of course I’m not perfect, but unforgivable? By a parent? At that time my husband and I were dating and we did go away for the odd weekend together. I knew that my dad did not approve, but again, was this unforgivable?

It was at this point that I changed my attitude toward forgiveness. While I still try to apologize if I realize that I have hurt or wronged someone I have since decided that just as I freely forgive those I love for any uninintended slight to me they can do the same for me. I am also strong enough that if someone has truly hurt me I can speak up for myself and address the situation. I expect those I love to do the same with me. Either speak up or let it go. Are our relationships so precarious that we can’t speak freely to eachother of our feelings? I don’t think so. I certainly hope not.

When I told my girlfriend that I was no longer asking for forgiveness she laughed and responded with, “Good”.

Let’s just know that we love and forgive one another and move on to a sweet and healthy year.


3 responses to “Reflections But No Apologies

  1. I often feel (hope) that G-d is more forgiving than mankind. If G-d knows what is truly in our hearts, then certainly if we hurt someone without malice we would be forgiven. Human relationships are so much more complicated. Your father’s reply was really not about you, but about what he was feeling in that moment in time. Whatever it was doesn’t matter. He’s not asking, but you can forgive him his insensitivity and myopia. The alcheits mention spurning parents and teachers. I don’t remember anything about hurting our children.

    • Big, I am tired of the complications of human/familial relationships.
      While G-d may be forgiving I often wonder (and I know that this is incendiary) if G-d does not need our forgiveness as well. If our praise is needed and judging by the amount of it that exists in the siddur it must be needed that wouldn’t our forgiveness be needed as well?
      I would like to add coveting my neighbour’s wife as a sin that I do not commit. I really don’t covet anybody’s anything, I’m just not a covetous type person :).
      Do you feel ready to forgive this year?

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