We are in the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur called the 10 days of Teshuvah/Repentance. It’s the most intense time of the year where we are encouraged to search our souls for where we have gone astray and to ask people for forgiveness.
The process of doing teshuvah (repentance, return to our soul’s original purpose) and asking for and granting forgiveness is indeed challenging.
It is all the more so in cases of profound betrayal such as childhood or domestic abuse, infidelity, and belittling, bullying and neglect. Family trauma.
For those who have suffered deep pain like this, there are several compounding issues at this season where our liturgy implores us to confess and heal and “wipe the slate clean.”
For one thing, the abuser may have not apologized, or he/she has apologized and not changed her/his behavior, or the suffering is so deep that one may just not be ready to forgive.
Especially for women, who have been socialized to say “I’m sorry” all the time and to “forgive and forget” and “be the bigger person” — it’s important to realize that the real issue here, as Rabbi Susan Schnur writes in Lilith magazine, “is not…that forgiveness is the bottom line, but rather that emotional resolution is. That is the real achievement and hard-won freedom.”
The goal here is wholeness: shleymut (emotional resolution.) It happens in its own time and may totally internal.
This season of renewal — if you are dealing with deep pains, be kind to yourself. There is no timetable — it’s a process. Remember, Jewish tradition holds that the acceptance of apology is in the hands of the person who has been wronged. You are not required to forgive, if you feel the apology is insincere or if the person hasn’t changed their behavior and done work to repair the breach.
Trust yourself and your timing. Also, forgiveness is not just once a year — it’s a daily process. And most of all, forgive yourself. Take your time. Love yourself.
Prayer for Those Not Ready to Forgive
The weight of this season compels us to forgive,
and to open our hearts.
There are many among us who have endured deep hurts,
and some from many years ago
Some of us are not sure of the path forward
amidst the prayers and pleadings of Yom Kippur to wipe the slate clean and start anew.
For the woman who was violated
and for the man beaten down,
And for anyone with a broken heart or a crushed soul
who might not be quite ready to forgive.
Take your time,
Sometimes the timetable of the High Holy Days
doesn’t match the rhythm of your heart.
Sometimes our devoted prayers get intermingled with inner voices not quite resolved:
“maybe it wasn’t all that bad”
“just let go”
“let bygones be bygones”
“be the bigger person” or
“maybe I’m being too sensitive.”
love yourself enough
your own timing.
Be patient enough to
stay in the place of
You commit to the work of resolution,
not being attached to an outcome or timetable.
Trust that you will find your way forward,
that you WILL come to a time
where holding on
hurts more than letting go.
Forgive yourself for not being yet ready.
From that place of total acceptance,
May you have faith that the path will open up.
Rabbi Jill Berkson Zimmerman
PS: I want to thank both Rabbi Susan Schnur and Marcia Cohn Spiegel who have contributed much to my thinking about this issue and for doing the work in the Jewish community to raise awareness.
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