I Ask Forgiveness

Today (sundown last night until sundown tonight) our Jewish brothers and sisters are celebrating Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. It is the “Day of Atonement,” on which people atone for their sins of the past year. The day is traditionally observed by fasting and prayer, and many of my Jewish friends spend a significant period of this day in their synagogues.

Christians do not have a single annual day of atonement.  Catholics and some Protestants avail themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a way to seek pardon for our sins between ourselves and God and between ourselves and other perople (although it is a Sacrament frequently ignored by many except, perhaps, during Lent).

One of the things I am drawn to by Yom Kippur and the days leading up to it is the emphasis on seeking reconciliation with those we have injured, on seeking pardon from the person and trying to do something to right the wrong. (A practice as important for Christians as for Jews; in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus says “if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”)

Regrading the days leading up to Yom Kippur, someone posted this prayer the other day:

To those I have wronged, I ask forgiveness.  To those I may have helped, I wish I had done more.  To those I neglected to help, I ask for understanding.  Tho those who helped me, I think you with all my Heart.

And for this day: One of my friends sent me the text of the Al Chet, the confession of sins that is said ten times in the course of the Yom Kippur services.  Here is an excerpt (the entire prayer is at the link):

For the sin which we have committed before You under duress or willingly.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by hard-heartedness.
For the sin which we have committed before You inadvertently….
And for the sin which we have committed before You through speech.
For the sin which we have committed before You by deceiving a fellowman….
For the sin which we have committed before You by disrespect for parents and teachers.
And for the sin which we have committed before You intentionally or unintentionally.
For the sin which we have committed before You by using coercion.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by  desecrating the Divine Name.
For the sin which we have committed before You by impurity of  speech.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by foolish  talk.
For the sin which we have committed before You with the evil  inclination.
And for the sin which we have committed before You knowingly or unknowingly.
For all these, God of pardon, pardon us, forgive us, atone for us. 

Whether you like to use language of “sin” or not, there is value in taking time to atone for the ways in which we have harmed our relationship with God and with others.

To my Jewish friends, G’mar Hatimah Tovah.

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