A Spiritual Practice of Forgiveness and Repentance: You Don't Have to Be Jewish to Benefit from the Spiritual Wisdom of Jewish High Holidays!

Tikkun, Summer 2015 | Go to article overview

A Spiritual Practice of Forgiveness and Repentance: You Don't Have to Be Jewish to Benefit from the Spiritual Wisdom of Jewish High Holidays!


Practice 1: Repentance - a central practice for the period from August 16 (the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul) through September 23 (Yom Kippur).

Carefully review your life: acknowledge to yourself whom you have hurt and where your life has gone astray from your own highest ideals. Find a place where you can be safely alone, and then say out loud whom you've hurt how, and how you've hurt yourself. In the case of others, go to them and say clearly what you've done and ask for forgiveness. Do not mitigate or "explain" - just acknowledge and sincerely ask for forgiveness.

We do not start from the assumption that anyone has become evil. Rather, we envision any "sins" as "missing the mark." We are born pure and with the best of intentions to be the highest possible spiritual beings we can be: we are arrows being shot toward God to connect more fully. Yet at various points in our lives, the arrow gets slightly off track and misses the mark. Repentance is really about a midcourse adjustment to get back on track, and it can be done every day. But we also recognize that each of us is embedded in a global economic system that oppresses and exploits many while systematically undermining the life-support system of the planet. We unintentionally benefit from that global system. So we have a spiritual and Jewish obligation to do more to find ways to transform our economic and political system and to support others who are similarly engaged in the struggle for a New Bottom Line of love, generosity, social justice, nonviolence, forgiveness, kindness, peace, environmental sanity, and celebration of all that is good and awesome about this universe. These seemingly utopian goals have now become a survival necessity for the continuation of life on earth.

This practice does not require one to be Jewish, so we invite all Tikkun readers to use this repentance practice and the forgiveness practice described below, and to invite others to do so as well. We also invite you to join our interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives and to create a local group to study Tikkun articles together, develop ideas on how to popularize the New Bottom Line in your own geographical area or workplace, and act on those ideas. We believe that true repentance should involve a willingness to move beyond single-issue activism to envision the society we actually want - as well as a willingness to work with others to bring that society into existence. So we urge you not only to repent about what has gone wrong, but also to think through the details of the world you want to build. Once you have a clear vision of that, the next step is to work in that direction and share your efforts with fellow members of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. Otherwise, repentance can become an empty exercise in selfaggrandizement, allowing us to feel good about ourselves for having wanted to change our world without having done anything to make change happen. To help in this process, please read and reread once a week this article: tikkun.org/yearning.

Practice 2: Forgiveness - for every day of the year.

Every night before going to sleep, or every morning before engaging in your various tasks, projects, or interactions with others, review your life. Recall who you feel has hurt or betrayed you and toward whom you are still holding resentment or anger. Then, say this out loud:

You, my Eternal Friend (Yud Hey Vav Hey, Shechinah, Adonai, or whatever name you give to the God or the spiritual energy of the universe), the Power of Transformation and Healing in the Universe, witness now that I forgive anyone who has hurt, upset, or offended me by hurting my body, taking my property, damaging my reputation, hurting my feelings, shaming me, undermining my friendships, hurting my income, scaring me, making me angry, or damaging people that I love - whether by accident or purposely - with words, deeds, thoughts, or attitudes. …

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