Opinion | Every day can be Yom Kippur


Photo Courtesy of Grace Cohen Grossman

Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur

By Mark Toledano, Columnist

How far can you run at maximum speed before passing out? Maybe a few miles. Maybe less. If the adrenaline kicks in, you could probably outrun a bear. I’ll bet you can run farther and faster than you think. But not indefinitely.

There are those things in life we cannot outrun: embarrassing moments, personal issues, past failures. It seems easier to run from these. After all, we run from them in our minds, not with our legs. But running from the things you’re avoiding is futile. Like physical running, your emotional heartbeat will fluctuate and your mental legs will give out. The predator you fearfully run from will catch up, and the great bear of shame will devour you whole.

Last Tuesday, Jews around the world stopped running. Yom Kippur, the holiest day of their calendar, instructs them to begin their new calendar year by reconciling with the old one. For some, this means apologizing to those they’ve wronged in the past year. For others, it means pledging not to repeat past mistakes.

Yom Kippur is the day of atonement, a concept that is no more exclusive to Jews than prayer is to Christians or faith is to Muslims. Everyone can benefit from a little self-reflection, especially at the beginning of a new semester.

You can start your journey to self-improvement by identifying who you have hurt in the past year with your words or your actions. Make an effort to apologize. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you are beyond making amends. Humans have a tendency to over-exaggerate. Whatever you did is probably not as bad as you think it is. The truth is, you can’t know if someone else is willing to forgive unless you ask.

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    Keep your momentum going by forgiving those who have hurt you. It doesn’t matter if they ask for forgiveness or not. Let them know that your kinship is stronger than the words or events that forced you apart.

    The reconciling doesn’t stop there. Take a moment to think about how you have let yourself down too. Were you not taking care of yourself? Maybe not eating well or getting enough sleep? Maybe you sold yourself short of your true potential, opting for comfort over hard work. Or, on the flip side, maybe you were too hard on yourself and you could benefit from some self-care.

    The next Yom Kippur is 348 days from now. There’s no good reason to wait until then to start tying up loose ends. If you have something to say, then you better go ahead and say it. Apologies aren’t like wine; they don’t get better with age. Progress is continual; one holiday is only one point on an upward trajectory.

    Mark is a junior in ACES.

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