Every year around this time it hits.

Yom Kippur envy.

I’m a Catholic who loves the Jewish High Holy Days.

These days of awe are truly awesome.

Before I married my Jewish husband, I thought Chanukah and Passover were the only Jewish holy days. I was clueless.

I have come to love the symbolism and power of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. These Days of Awe invite us to live a spiritual New Year, one we could all use. Who doesn’t need to reconcile with God and everyone else in their life?

My understanding is that you repent, fast and pray to repair things with God, but it takes more work to repair things with your fellow humans.

In his book, “This is My God,” Herman Wouk described what happens during these holy days:

“The scrolls of fate roll open before the Lord. In these scrolls every man’s hand has written his deeds of the year past. God reads the entries and pronounces judgment, fixing the destinies of every human being for the year to come: who shall die, who shall live, who shall be rich, who shall be poor, who shall rise in the world, who shall fall, who shall live in peace, and who shall stumble in misery.”

Then we get to alter our fate, to repair the world, at least the corner that we tore. I’m a writer, so I love the idea of having a chance to edit what is written in the “Book of Life.”

Some people get creative. I once read a CJN story about the Lewkowicz family in South Euclid that observed Rosh Hashanah at the Cleveland Metroparks. They jotted down how to become more generous, shared their successes and their hopes for improving their lives in the new year, then tossed stones in a creek to symbolically “wash away unwanted habits and choices.”

Unwanted habits and choices. If you’re like me, you might need a wheelbarrow of stones to get rid of them all.

So what do you plan to do with your do-over?

Here’s what some people do. They post mass messages on Facebook to apologize. I saw them last year and cringed. They go something like this:

“To everyone I might have hurt, I am truly sorry. I wish you all a year full of laughter, good health and joy. G’mar chatima tova and an easy fast!"

It’s like a drive-by amends.

I enjoy connecting with family and friends on Facebook, but connecting isn’t the same as communicating, and apologizing isn’t the same as atoning.

It’s called the Day of Atonement for a reason. “For on that day atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you of all that you have done wrong – before God you will be clean,” according to Leviticus 16:29-30.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture where “I’m sorry” gets tossed about without any real accountability or responsibility.

My friends in 12-step recovery programs have taught me the fine art of making amends. Their spiritual way of life includes Step 8: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” It’s followed by Step 9: “Made direct amends to such people, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

You offer sincere regret for the specific acts you did or failed to do. When possible, you atone face to face, eye to eye, heart to heart. Then you take action to repair any harm.

Making amends involves more than an apology, but an apology is part of it. A sincere one, not the superficial kind that often sound like this:

“I’m sorry if I hurt you.” If? If you aren’t sure, you probably aren’t ready to apologize.

“I’m sorry but I was going through a rough time.” But? I learned to keep my big “but” to myself when making amends.

“I’m sorry you got hurt. I was just joking.” Too passive. If you caused the injury, own it.

When offered with honesty and sincerity, those two little words, “I’m sorry,” are powerful, especially when someone has waited a lifetime, or what seems like a lifetime, to hear them from you.

Follow them up with action to repair the damage, and you will experience the peace of real atonement, where you find yourself at one with the world and the One who created it.

Regina Brett is the New York Times bestselling author of “God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours,” “Be the Miracle: 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible” and “God Is Always Hiring: 50 Lessons for Finding Fulfilling Work.” Connect with her on Facebook at ReginaBrettFans and on Twitter @ReginaBrett.


Letters, commentaries and opinions appearing in the Cleveland Jewish News do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, its board, officers or staff.

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