In the article “ABC’s of Rosh Hashanah,” found on Aish.com, Rabbi Shraga Simmons writes, “A key component of Rosh Hashanah preparation is to ask forgiveness from anyone we may have wronged during the previous year. To the greatest extent possible, we want to begin the year with a clean slate – and without anyone harboring a grudge against us. Similarly, we should be quick to forgive those who have wronged us.”
We all have a “shadow side.” As we have the sun and moon, light and dark, darkness is in all of us. We do not like to look at our own flaws, weaknesses, survival instincts, and deep-seated fears. Yet we all have them. We have been taught since childhood to cover them, hide them and project the opposite at all costs. There is a good reason for this. Looking at our dark side isn’t very pretty or nice. Yet when we do, things change. We become honest with ourselves and we stop fighting what we fear. We also become much more compassionate toward others.
In my book “Pathfinding,” I write, “All of us have cuts, scrapes, blemishes and scars. Some of us have health challenges, others have serious life-threatening health difficulties. People have physical, mental and emotional impairments. We all have faults, inadequacies, weaknesses, shortcomings, vulnerabilities and Achilles’ heels. Despite all of our imperfections, we find ourselves surprisingly alike.”
To continue from “Pathfinding”: “When we wander from our path – we need to ask ourselves questions like: What cues did we overlook or misinterpret? What assumptions, expectations and attitudes derailed us? What lessons can we learn now that will keep us squarely on the path? How can we use a particular experience to rewrite the ending to the next similar experience? How can we use our imperfections to perfect our lives? Another way we can evaluate this is to make a list of the following: old attitudes replaced with new ones, strengths that have compensated weaknesses, how we ‘rewrote the ending’ of a ‘mistake’ we made, a challenge we overcame because our inner strength and God guided us.”
I think that this is what Rosh Hashanah does for me. It gives me a time and place to concentrate on forgiveness, to let go of resentments and grudges, to look at myself fairly and squarely, “naked” but willing to look past the flaws to the inner beauty and love that we all have before God.
There are prayers unique to Rosh Hashanah in the special prayer book the machzor, including the Amidah and Kiddush for Rosh Hashanah, and the supplication Avinu Malkeinu.
There is also a wonderful ancient Hawaiian prayer of forgiveness, called Ho’oponopono. The four phrases of Ho’oponopono are used as a prayer, or declaration, of: “I am sorry.” “Please forgive me.” “Thank you.” “I love you.” It is a powerful forgiveness prayer and repetition.
Forgiveness can bring us a fresh start and more love in our hearts and lives. As Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world … as in being able to remake ourselves.”
L’shanah tovah. Happy New Year!
PATRICIA RASKIN hosts “The Patricia Raskin Show” on Saturdays at 3 p.m. on WPRO, 630 AM/99.7 FM and on Mondays at 2 p.m. on voiceamerica.com. Raskin is a board member of Providence’s Temple Emanu-El.