Most years I tell our smallest congregants a Yom Kippur story that I love, called ‘The Most Precious Thing.’ In it, God sends an angel out into the world to find…the most precious thing. First, the angel comes back with a smile from a father holding his infant child. “Precious, but try again,” says God. Next, the angel comes back having witnessed a kindness of a child to an elder. “Precious, but try again,” says God. Finally, the angel witnesses a man’s remorse for the rift with his brother, and as he says “I’m truly sorry”, the angel catches one of his falling tears and brings it back to God. “Yes,” says God, “ ‘I’m sorry’” is the most precious thing because it helps heal wounds between brothers and sisters, parents and children, and brings peace into the world.” Take a bow, the end. (If you want to hear this story, with puppets, come to our super fun Yom Kippur kids’ service at 10:45a on Saturday. (Open and Free to the Community)
The theme of “I’m sorry” is an essential part of Yom Kippur. Judaism says that, for sins against God, you must ask God’s forgiveness. If this is done with Kevanah (true intent), our rabbis tell us God will forgive us…but we have to try. However, for sins against specific people, you must approach them and ask them for their forgiveness. You cannot control whether or not they forgive you, but you can control your effort and intention.
It is not just our kids who need to learn how to say “I’m sorry.” I have seen families torn apart and life-long-friends feud for years, because they refuse to say the words “I’m sorry.” An apology will not solve the root issues and it will not clear away the complex baggage that comes with these relationships. But “I’m sorry” will signify to them your intent: that you want to move forward and try to mend what is broken. Yom Kippur is your excuse to do this! It is Judaism’s way of trumping both hurt feelings & our harmful pride. Try this: “Hey_____, I know that we have had our differences and there is some bad blood between us. I am not saying that it is all my fault, but I also know that I share in some of the blame for what happened. It’s Yom Kippur, and I just want to tell you that I’m sorry and, if you would forgive me, I’d like us to move forward together. What do you say?”
This will help bring peace to your world, and usher in a sweet new year.
Shannah Tova, Shabbat Shalom, and may you have a meaningful Yom Kippur.