This past weekend was Yom Kippur and strangely enough, despite the difficulties I have with fasting (please don't tell anyone about the grapes I ended up sneaking at 12:30), it is one of my favourite holidays. There is little more magical than when Kol Nidre is sung, first as a whisper, then in a normal voice, and finally with the whole heart behind the words. There is little more humble than spending ten days thinking through all the times you've hurt people through the year and asking them for forgiveness.
I admonished Josh for driving like a maniac to Kol Nidre on Friday night, but in reality, it would have broken my heart to miss hearing that opening prayer. I had a lot of fears about switching shuls and one of the reasons was this Kol Nidre service. I wanted to return to our old shul for this single service. But Josh convinced me to move myself fully over to the new shul and I'm glad that I took that leap. This new shul does not end with a gorgeous, aching rendition of Adon Olam like my old shul (though perhaps, next year, the rabbi will allow me to lead it?), but it does begin with the simple prayer that names the service, Kol Nidre, that is sung in every synagogue across the world. My rabbi sang it with hope and longing and humility.
I love Yom Kippur because it is a holiday that focuses on mindfulness. It is about being aware of how our actions affect another person (and in kashrut, another animal). It is about being aware of how we treat community--not just what we get from our family and friends or what we give back, but how we do it and how those actions are perceived.
Josh and I practice sustainable Judaism, meaning that we've combined sustainable living with Judaism. Which means sustainability takes on many forms. We try to lead a sustainable life, meaning, anything we can do for ourselves we do. We bake our own bread, we sew our own blankets, and we mend our own clothes (except for the times when we send the kids over to my mother's house in pants that are obviously too long with the hope that she will hem them...). In terms of sustaining the earth, we recycle and reuse. We purchase a certain percentage of our clothing and toys used. We take the kids to local farms weekly so they can see how their food is grown. We purchase local produce.
(in case you're about to vomit from my piety, also remember that I would kill a cricket in a heartbeat. Actually, I would get someone else to do my bidding because I am NOT going near a cricket. And I pollute the world with bug killer. But enough about my hypocrisy...)
But sustainability also has an emotional component.
It is about sustaining community--not only gathering people near, but apologizing when we do something that fractures community. We are human and we are going to make promises and we are going to break them. We are going to say hurtful things and commit thoughtless actions. All these things are somewhat unavoidable--we aren't mind readers and we can't always predict how our actions will be perceived. But we can apologize.
And it is impossibly hard to apologize sometimes.
Other times, you're not even aware that you need to apologize because the other person hasn't shared with you how you have hurt them. Which is the hardest part about apologizing--when you sense that there is a problem, but the other person isn't forthcoming with how you have hurt them and therefore, you can't truly apologize for the transgression. You can only present a general apology--I'm sorry if I hurt you--and that's not a true apology. Because implicit in the apology is the promise that you will attempt to change your behaviour and not commit the same transgression again. In order to truly apologize, you need to understand how you hurt the other person, accept responsibility for your actions, and then enter a state of mindfulness so that it doesn't happen again.
Sometimes, it's really fucking hard to pick up that phone and tell someone how they've hurt you. It's just easier, less hurtful, less frustrating to not address it at all.
Prior to the Al Cheit prayer during the Kol Nidre service, my rabbi recited his own personalized apology to the congregation. It is a way to reach out to those that you inadvertently hurt during the year but didn't tell you. If a person tells me that something I wrote or said hurt her, I can address that apology directly. But I am sure I have scratched someone emotionally and have had no clue that my words or actions have done damage. Therefore, my apology to you:
For the times that I wrote something that made you feel uncomfortable, angry, or hurt and for the times I linked to something that upset you.
For the times that I said something that disregarded your situation and for the times I put myself first.
For the times that you emailed me and I never wrote back and for the times when I emailed back, but I said the wrong thing.
For the times when I read your words and didn't comment on your blog and for the times when I commented and said something that hurt you.
For the times when I missed reading your blog for days and for the times when I checked back way too often and nudged you to post.
For the times when I gave unsolicited advice and for the times when I remained silent even though I had knowledge to pass along.
For these times and for the times I didn't know enough to include, pardon me and forgive me.