By Rabbi Erin Boxt | Temple Kol Emeth
Every year, when we prepare for the High Holiday period, we find ourselves thinking about everything that has happened in the previous year.
The month of Elul allows us to prepare ourselves. From the first day of Elul, we seek ways to forgive and be forgiven. It is during this month that we recite special prayers of forgiveness, Selichot. In asking for forgiveness, we are reminded that true forgiveness can be given only when we forgive first. For Jews, it is just as important to forgive others as it is to ask others for forgiveness.
On Erev Yom Kippur, just before the words of Kol Nidre are chanted, we have a short but very important prayer. The translation of the prayer is “For transgressions against G-d, the Day of Atonement atones; but for transgressions of one human being against another, the Day of Atonement does not atone until they have made peace with one another.”
It may seem so easy to ask for forgiveness. For many of us, this period of Selichot affords us the opportunity to right those wrongs.
What about the sins we did not know we committed? Should we just throw out a blanket “I’m sorry” and hope that everyone will just forgive us? This may seem petty, but there are many people who struggle every day with the knowledge they have wronged others.
Giving forgiveness, however, is often incredibly difficult. As Jews, our history is filled with plenty of opportunities to forgive others.
I am reminded of a story I heard once about the woman who refused to purchase a German car because she could not forgive the Germans for the Holocaust. There are probably plenty of members of our community who still hold grudges for sins of the past. I do not fault them. I just hope they are able to one day forgive and move on.
The truth is that without giving forgiveness, we are not truly able to experience the fullness of the High Holiday period. We are commanded to seek out, ask forgiveness and give forgiveness. As hard as this may be for many of us, it is just something we must do.
The month of Elul seems shorter than other months because of the sheer magnitude of what we are preparing for. Before the month gets away from us, though, and we are faced with the moment of true repentance, we must continue our preparation, no matter how difficult it may seem — including seeking out, asking for forgiveness and forgiving others.
With the High Holidays quickly approaching, let each of us shout out hineini, “I am here.” I am ready to forgive. I am ready to ask for forgiveness. I am ready to begin the new year with a fresh slate.