The Jewish concepts of repentance and forgiveness always stand out in my mind. They have been ingrained in me since the most formative years of my religious education. Jews are urged not to bear grudges and encouraged to be introspective when it comes to our individual prior actions. So why do we so often forget this until right before the time period of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, when repentance and soul searching is emphasized? We all know that self-improvement and making wrongs right should be an all-year-round theme.
When I was growing up, children would approach one another in school during the days leading up to Rosh Hashana, just as we were coming out of the classrooms where teachers had taught that actions are examined and weighed by God, that it was a time when personal fate hung in the balance. "Will you forgive me?" children would ask of one another. If the person asking had done no harm to you that you were aware of, you might now assume they had gossiped about you behind your back -- or something to that effect. No matter, it was a time to forgive and forget. Que Sera, Sera and C'est La Vie. We can now begin again with the advent of a Jewish new year.
The question I always have is: Why do we wait until we're right down to the wire? We're not cramming for final exams, we're (supposed to be) transforming our entire modus operandi to become better individuals. Isn't this something that should be taking place all year round?
If it's too cumbersome a daily task, why not make it a priority before every Jewish holiday? There are enough of those (Jewish holidays, that is) to go around, though not as many as days of the week. Perhaps we should designate "checkpoints" for our selves -- stop signs that you can't simply roll through.
As Passover approaches, I pause and reflect: I am sorry to those who I offended, to those who I didn't truly forgive before but do now, I'm sorry for playing devil's advocate or unwittingly "playing both sides," for not thoroughly considering the consequences of my own actions (that's correct, why shouldn't I apologize to myself if I've felt let down by me?). And I'm sorry if you feel that I'm preaching to you through this post -- that's not my intention.
As for forgiveness, I will make every effort to let go of the old grudges, the ones that I have been unable to let go of and some of the new ones that have hit the road blocks of my obstinacy, mostly due to sensing that someone else is not sorry.
I digress, for it not time to stew and boil (except when it comes to vegetable stew, London broil or whatever your holiday dish). On Passover, we remember that we were once slaves and now we're free. This may be the first such checkpoint at which to stop and say: Am I really free? Have I freed myself from "that squabble," from ignoring my neighbor or my cousin's cousin? Am I allowing another person to live freely when I sit in judgement of them and make it known? Am I allowing another person to be free when I gossip about them and make them self-conscious?
I propose that we do things differently this year: Why wait until Rosh Hashana to mark a checkpoint?
Stop, ensure the coast is clear, then drive.