As we march on in our busy and full lives, we are often unaware of our effect on others, of forming negative habits unknowingly. As the Talmud (ancient body of Jewish law) explains:
The impulse to do evil is at first like a passer-by, then like a lodger, and finally like the master of the house —Talmud Sukkah 52b
Can we stop and open ourselves to see our shadowy self? The impact our actions and words have on others? The effect our consumption has on our environment? How about the influence of our greed on our bodies and society? Can we get to a place of humility, compassion for others and self, a place of truth?
“Repentance is an absolute, spiritual decision made in truthfulness. Its motivations are remorse for the past and responsibility for the future.” Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays By Abraham Joshua Heschel, Susannah Heschel
This process is not meant to be an abstract, passive exercise – Action is demanded. Any misdeeds we have committed against the divine can be absolved through prayer and genuine contrition. However, any hurt or harm we have caused our fellow humans cannot be absolved in a similar manner. We must approach our friends and loved ones with the question: “Will you forgive me for any harm or hurt that I may have caused you this year?” Considering that we may have unknowingly brought pain unto others, we are asked to present this question to the people around us, offering an opportunity to share feelings and heal relationships. This practice is part of the Jewish hope for Tikkun Olam – Repairing the world.
The Jewish greeting for the New Year is NOT “Happy New Year”, it is Shanah Tovah – a “Good Year.” May your year be full of goodness and may you find goodness in yourself and others.