If you say Krias Shema from a siddur, you might say this every night: Hereini mochel, I hereby forgive…
Each year, we spend ten days focusing our thoughts and actions on nothing but giving and getting forgiveness.
And for one awesome day, the holiest one of the year, we stand before our Creator, asking forgiveness from Him, the Master of Heaven and Earth.
But what is forgiveness all about? How do you give it and how do you get it? (Tip: the best answers are somewhere nearby… inside your very own heart!)
Path to Purity
Lucky for us, we don’t have to figure out how to come clean by ourselves: the Torah, as always, tells us just how to go about it. Follow these four basic steps and, if you’re honestly ready to change… Poof! You’ll be good as new. Sounds a tad too good to be true? It should be — but it isn’t. Hashem is the Master of Forgiveness, so this is the real deal.
- Feel it. It’s got to be meaningful to you if you’re going to change. Ever wonder why nobody’s invented a teshuvah machine? They couldn’t — because this action needs a heart behind it.
- End it. Time to slam the breaks on the bad behavior. Stopping it in its tracks means stopping to think about it, too.
- Say it. It’s not fun to admit your mistakes, but verbalizing your regret makes it so much more real. Luckily, though, there’s only One Being Who needs to hear those heartfelt words: Hashem.
- Change it. The best intentions are still just intentions — unless you act on them.
Regret or Regress
Esti* knew she had a great sense of humor. She’d crack jokes all the time — and sometimes, if her friends and family served as the punch line, she figured they were okay with it. But then one day she overdid it. She hurt her brother Betzalel, and he let her know it.
“Oh, you’re just oversensitive.” She waved her hand at him. “It’s just a joke! Seriously!” But that year, as Yom Kippur came around, Betzalel’s pained expression kept popping up in her mind. Esti thought of how her “jokes” might actually hurt others — even those she loved most. Her heart constricted when she thought about how her sister Rachelli must feel when she kidded around about her lack of fashion sense, or the way her mild-mannered friend Adina must take her sarcastic one-liners. Suddenly, she regretted every painful joke she’d ever made. A firm resolve to change followed, with Esti paying closer attention to the way she joked — and it didn’t take long to see the difference.
Feeling bad and realizing the extent of the harm we’ve caused is the only way to get started on true teshuvah.
Caution! Don’t confuse “regret” with “guilt.” Guilt eats us up — it means we think we can never fix the harm we caused. Regret is what we feel when it hits us that we’ve made a wrong decision or missed a huge opportunity. Realizing you were in the store where the winning lottery ticket was sold but you chose not to waste your money on one… now that’s regret: not eating yourself up with shame, just wishing you would’ve chosen differently. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 727)
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