For many of us, the month of Elul and the High Holy Days are our personal and communal time for introspection. The work we do for ourselves as Jews is significant as we take the opportunity to make teshuvah (forgiveness) to others and to God and to improve our lives.
I confess there’s something that’s always bothered me about this time of year, when we put such a big emphasis on reflecting on our mistakes. Why only now? Isn’t this something we should be doing all year? As a community, we certainly do plenty of it, through the very act of constantly challenging one another.
How many of us have been going around during these Days of Repentance apologizing to those we have wronged during the past year? Be honest. Have you made your list of the people you have hurt and the offenses that have hurt them? When you have apologized, have you settled for the classic cop-out: “If I have hurt you in any way, please forgive me”? Or have you simply asked for mechilla — forgiveness — and moved on?
Robert Downey Jr. at an awards ceremony in Los Angeles urged the Hollywood community to forgive Mel Gibson for his recent troubles.
Jews tend to be a forgiving people. We also tend to be an apologetic people. There is good reason for this: We are commanded to seek forgiveness from those we have wronged. We also are encouraged (strongly) to accept apologies from others when they are sincere.
Now that the election is over and campaign exaggerations can give way to reality, in schools, and everywhere else, people are making efforts to put things back into perspective. While a lot of healing may still be needed before that sort of unity can move beyond a Saturday night at the beach, one uniting factor all agree on is that this election brought a new level of political awareness and passion across party lines and across ages.
Film directors call this end-of-day light the "golden light." It's not the bright, naked light of the mid-day, nor the dramatic darkness of the night. It's the light that bridges those two worlds. Spiritually, it's the time when the past and the future caress each other -- the day is still fresh in our mind, but we can feel the breath of the approaching night.
We have more synagogues and more freedom to use them here in Los Angeles than we did in Iran, but that doesn't mean we're any closer to fulfilling the true purpose of gathering in a house of worship.
In Jewish tradition, the act of seeking forgiveness from someone we have harmed is clear and specific.
Most of us neglect what is arguably the most difficult and meaningful ritual at this time of year: Going to the people we've hurt, recognizing our hurtful actions and asking for their forgiveness
It's the season to be sorry. It's that time of year when we go over all of our deeds, things we have done to others, to God, to ourselves and ask for forgiveness -- and grant it to those who need it from us.
As singles, trying on different slippers and hoping for a perfect fit, we have assayed to squeeze ourselves into many an improper shoe during the past year, blistering ourselves and others in the process, becoming callused as we try to move our lives forward.
Just when the film world seems to have examined the Holocaust from every possible angle, a new film comes along that shakes up our complacency."Forgiving Dr. Mengele" focuses on the story of Eva Kor, one of the so-called "Mengele twins," who along with her sister was subjected to the Nazi doctor's experiments. Most notably, it deals with the forgiveness of Nazis, a concept antithetical to many Holocaust survivors.
The American Library Association got more than 400 requests to ban books last year. But most of those requests were unsuccessful, because of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other people who make sure books stay on shelves.
Self-help books are essential tools.
Last week, The Rev. Pat Robertson apparently decided that he'd better have the government of Israel on his side, too, especially if he wants to build a sprawling evangelical center on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, we ask: Who shall live and who shall die? This year, I will observe Yom Kippur -- the holiest day of the Jewish year -- with refugees from Darfur in camps in Chad.
While projects like tempera-painted honey dishes and party-whistle shofars are de rigueur, preschool and elementary school teachers take seriously the idea of having the High Holiday message of personal accountability set the tone for the whole year
One of the most important questions we need to ask ourselves, particularly as we approach Yom Kippur, is: How will we be remembered?
Cornell University psychologist Uri Bronfenbrenner agrees with Julius Segal, and adds that children crave the respect, acceptance, patience and feeling of being cherished from at least one parent or other significant adult in their lives.
In 1990, the late psychologist and author Julius Segal wrote an article of exceptional depth, wisdom and practicality for Parents Magazine.
Yom Kippur reminds me of the time I spent in couples counseling with a serious boyfriend. My boyfriend believed he could be cruel or invasive or dishonest, but as long as he copped to his "sins" once a week, he'd be absolved (especially if he used bogus touchy-feely phrases like "I'm sorry you feel that way," "I validate your experience," and "I respect your boundaries").
Adults aren't the only ones planning to ask God for forgiveness during the High Holidays. As the Day of Atonement approaches, youngsters around Los Angeles are already contemplating the mistakes they've made over the past year. Here is what eight young Angelenos plan to repent for during Yom Kippur.
Moses begged God's forgiveness for 40 days and 40 nights, Kobe Bryant's going on at least that long plus a $4 million sorry ring. We all have our ways of expressing remorse, but what are we buying with our flowers, phone calls and fine jewelry? Maybe the more observant among us are trying to be "inscribed in the book of life," to obey strict talmudic laws, but people like me, we just want to feel okay about ourselves. We'd like our names erased from the Book of Guilt.
The rabbis of the Talmud tell us that we are created with yetzer hatov (good inclination) or yetzer harah (bad inclination).
This week's Torah portion presents the blessings and curses that follow from observance or defiance of the law. Some people understand this as a rigid system of reward and punishment. Keep the covenant, and all will be well; violate it, and you will suffer.
While growing up on his Encino cul-de-sac in the 1980s, Darren Stein made films with his father's video camera, bossily directing the other Jewish kids like a baby Roger Corman. The sets were backyards; production was every afternoon save for Hebrew school hours at Leo Baeck and Stephen S. Wise temples. The scripts included zombie flicks, campy gay comedies and a Holocaust drama in which a bicycle pump doubled for a canister of Zyklon-B.
In my family there were no stories, and there was certainly no forgiveness.
In April of last year, I received the following letter from the city of Graz, Austria, where I was born.
"On November 9th, 2000, the newly erected synagogue in Graz will be returned to the Jewish community. The return of the synagogue is a visual appeal for forgiveness for the atrocities and unjust criminal actions that were dealt our Jewish fellow citizens in the year 1938. This new House of God for the Jewish Community in Graz, which now stands at the very same spot where the former synagogue stood, should be a symbol for new respect for human rights and human kindness here in our city."
The syllabus for my USC general education class includes both Shakespeare's "The Tempest" and chapters 37-50 of Genesis -- the Joseph story or "novella." These two narratives share themes that commend themselves: forgiveness and reconciliation. Both Prospero and Joseph were set upon by their own brothers and narrowly escaped death. Both protagonists contributed to their victim role -- Prospero through neglecting governance and Joseph by insensitive boasting. In the end, though, both forgive those who abused them -- enabling their family circle to be repaired and the next generation blessed. Just as Prospero realizes that "the rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance," so too does the instinct for reconciliation surge through Joseph.
Hebrew for forgiveness, Selichot services are a time of preparation for the New Year, generally held after the conclusion of Shabbat prior to Rosh Hashanah.
According to Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin, who wrote, "To Be a Jew," atonement is not achieved until the "grieved party is pacified and forgives."
Who needs Halloween or Mardi Gras? On Purim, the masquerade of characters is lively and intriguing: Spangled Vashtis, bearded Mordechais, snarling Hamans, bejeweled Esthers, silk-robed Ahasueruses.