For me, whether I make it to High Holy Day services or not or commit to the 25 hour fast or not, it is the beautiful act of FORGIVENESS that marks Yom Kippur as more than a holy day, but an occasion to deliver my soul. While “repentance” implies sin, “atonement” suggests apology. And though admitting the hurt we’ve inflicted on others is hard, inherently so, I think admitting how we’ve allowed others to wrong us is equally as challenging, if not more. In our egocentric modern world it’s always me first. But when it comes to forgiveness, looking inward on the sorrows we wear should be the first place to start. I need to forgive myself so that I can forgive my fellow humans. The grace and dignity and love I offer my own soul will, in turn, radiate from me in every act I commit. So when it comes down to it, Yom Kippur is really about peace: finding paths to inner peace, becoming that peace, and endowing it into our every interaction and exchange. I don’t mean to take a beautiful tradition and get all self-helpy or New Age with it, but those terms get a bad rap!
I hope this year, during the Days of Awe, all my loved ones found forgiveness in the people they sought it from. But I hope too they granted themselves pardon, saw that they are human, and as humans, part of a collective divinity. I’m reminded of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous words “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The same goes for peace. It is this idea that each person is connected to every person that deserves, at least once a year, to be celebrated.