One of our goals that we have been working on pre-Yom Kippur is the striving for a reconciliation with ourselves, with others, and with G-d, some sense of achieved forgiveness. What do we mean by ‘to forgive and to be forgiven’ and how do we achieve it? Forgiveness means reconciliation despite estrangement; it means reunion despite hostility. This genuine forgiveness, this reunion and participation once more with another makes love for the other possible. We cannot love where we feel rejected, even if this rejection is done out of ‘righteousness.’ We are hostile towards that which we feel judged by, even if the judgment is not expressed in words. Moreover, this hostility and anxiety about being rejected by those who are nearest to us can hide itself under the various forms of love and friendship, sensual love, conjugal and family love.
So, how do we find this reconciliation? After all, there are so few of us who do not harbor some form of anger and resentment toward others. And what a burden that is! How much nicer it is to feel at peace and loving toward others!
Some suggestions from our Mussar Masters!
- The first task is to muster the courage to face our ‘adversary.’ This ‘face to face’ dialoguing is most crucial for success. If we are both expected and required to make peace during this season, this expectation also aids the process. It is the proper time to make peace. The atmosphere of reconciliation is in the air.
- After sitting down face to face each of us must try to REMEMBER the whole history of the conflict, every detail so that it can ALL be exorcised, be made conscious. We have to pay attention to our feelings, to our inner resentments, and bring our minds to the details of the past that have created this conflict between ourselves so that its energy can be attenuated by EXPRESSING it while being heard.
- The third task is to commit to be flexible, to talk directly and to listen attentively. Each person is doing her/his best to show a willingness and desire toward reconciliation. This spirit is catching and promotes healing within the other; it influences our willingness to make peace as well. This is the atmosphere of these then days of Repentance. It is expected by the Heavenly Court.
- The fourth principle is de-escalating some of the feelings; after expressing some of the anger, the pain, after listening to the other and hearing the other side. Some of the insights and new ways of looking at the situation should act to de-escalate these feelings and promote reconciliation- the expectation of Yom Kippur.
- And the last stage is taking responsibility and admitting one’s own part in the transaction (the ‘confessional’). If we ourselves can admit our error (rather than the other pointing it out), it helps the other person feel better. One might say, “On that day I was not very sensitive. I said such and such which wasn’t very nice. I’m sorry.” This encourages the other to confess something of the same magnitude. This atmosphere is encouraging, helping the de-escalation to become realized. The pressure on each person from her/his anger will lighten. In this kind of environment, the capacity for mutual understanding and acceptance will be born. We will be thinking of the well-being of the community and not just our own feelings. We will be ready to yield to some sort of compromise. So, let us all work to feel greater peace within this coming year, and be able to look at our fellow human beings directly, accepting them for who they are, and allowing them to express their unique potential as a result of our own inner peacefulness.
Let us at this moment realize also G-d’s love for us and let us realize that this love is part of our own being created in the image of G-d. To love this love is to experience G-d, and to accept life and love it. Being forgiven and being able to accept oneself are one and the same thing.
I pray that each of us finds the strength to seek and find forgiveness, and hence to give out the love that those around us are sustained by. May you all have a sweet year! I pray that we all find reconciliation with each other. Let us plan to do so, and may it be so.
Blessings and Love,