The Jewish High Holy Days are observed during the 10 day period between the first day (Rosh Hashanah) and the 10th day (Yom Kippur). Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the most important of all Jewish Holidays. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is celebrated the first and second days. It is a time of family gatherings, special meals and sweet tasting foods. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the most solemn day of the Jewish year and is observed on the tenth day. It is a day of fasting, reflection and prayers.
Yom Kippur has always been the most important Jewish holiday for me to seriously practice. It gives me the opportunity to throw away my sins of the past year and to be forgiven by G-d and forgiven by myself.
This time of year always makes me think about the true nature of our sins. I like the definition and description from Dummies.com “Sin is any deliberate action, attitude, or thought that goes against G-d. You may think of sin as an obvious act, such as murder, adultery, or theft. Although that’s true, sin is also wrongdoing that’s far subtler and even unnoticeable at times, such as pride, envy, or even worry. Sin includes both things you shouldn’t have done, but did (sins of commission)and things you should’ve done, but didn’t (sins of omission).”
I used to struggle with how easy my religion made it for me to do something wrong then be forgiven at the beginning of each new year. I thought this was such a cop out. It almost made it easy for me to rationalize some white lies I have told, or bigger wrongdoings I have committed with the thought that I would be forgiven and life would go on.
As I got older, I realize that although I was being forgiven by G-d, I was not forgiving myself. Thus the baggage and heavy weight of regret, resentment and guilt built year after year. I have learned that living one day at a time, forgiving myself and others, will help me lead my life with a lighter heart and a happier soul.
This year I will fast for 24 hours, cleanse my body and my soul. I will take my ritual walk to a body of water near my house, and throw my sins away for the year. I’m not perfect. More sins will accumulate but I will continue to forgive myself and strive every day to be a better person than I was, the day before.