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Thursday, 10 September 2015

Forgive yourself!

Daf Yomi Nazir 18

It’s that time of year again.  Selichos, Yom Kippur.  Starting a few days before Rosh Hashanah, you get up early each morning and spend an extra half hour praying.   The couple of weeks of Selichos culminate in the Day of Atonement.  You spend all day long in shul fasting and saying sorry.  Is it worth it?  Are we accomplishing anything?

A nazir who came into contact with multiple sources of impurity is only required to offer a single sacrifice of atonement.

Selichos is an incredible gift from Above.  Once a year, you are granted the opportunity to say sorry for everything you’ve done throughout the past year and in one fell swoop, all is forgiven.  You become like the nazir who has experienced multiple sources of impurity – all you need is a single sacrifice, a single shot of atonement, and incredibly, all of a sudden the slate is wiped clean.

You might have done some things during the year that you’re not so proud of.  You might be living with remorse and regret over some occasion that the yetzer hara (evil inclination) got the better of you.  You want to believe that the Almighty will open His storehouse of blessing and help you achieve your dreams.  But you think, ‘I’m not deserving of His blessing.  I’ve made some bad choices; why should G-d bless me?’

And then Yom Kippur rolls around and all is forgiven.  No longer must you live burdened by regret over your actions.  G-d completely removes the sin.  Anything that has held you back – it’s as if it never happened!  What an unbelievable blessing!  G-d has forgiven you, and it’s time to forgive yourself and move on.

When you live with the burden of sin, you tie yourself down and deny yourself the chance to accomplish the great things the Almighty has sent you to achieve on earth.   G-d doesn’t want you to wallow in your shackles.  He wants to set you free.  That happens, guaranteed, on Yom Kippur.

So if it’s guaranteed to happen on Yom Kippur, why bother with all the lead-up prayers?   Why stay up late on Selichos night and get up early each morning as Yom Kippur approaches?  Why go to all the trouble with the extra prayers if G-d is bound to wipe the slate clean anyway?

The reason we spend so long saying sorry is not because G-d needs it.  It’s easy for G-d to forgive us, but we’re human and sometimes we have more difficulty forgiving ourselves.  It’s all well and good to know that you can show up to shul on Yom Kippur and G-d will forgive you, but some sins are just too big and burdensome that, as mere mortals with feelings, emotions, and doubts, we can’t forgive ourselves in a mere instant. 

The period of Selichos gives us the opportunity to process G-d’s forgiveness and come to terms with the reality that He has wiped the slate clean.  Selicha after Selicha talks about the Almighty’s storehouse of forgiveness.  By the time you’ve repeated the mantra that He is overflowing with forgiveness over and over, you can finally find peace inside your soul and move one.

And if after reciting all the Selichos you still can’t accept that G-d has forgiven and unburdened you, your obsession is no longer emanating from a pure source.  It stems from the machinations of your yetzer hara that doesn’t want you to move on.  He knows that once you forgive yourself, you will accomplish incredible things.  He wants to keep you from your best and so he tells you that you must continue to feel bad about what you’ve done.  As long as you feel awful, you will plod along in mediocrity.  Stop listening to his wicked rantings!  Release yourself from his clutches and you will achieve awesomeness! 

Your Father in Heaven loves you more than any mortal parent loves their child.  He promises to forgive you on Yom Kippur.  May you accept His forgiveness wholeheartedly and proceed to become the outstanding individual you were destined to be!