Tonight marks the start of Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement. It follows Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which started last week. These are the High Holy days, the holiest days of the Jewish calendar. Our family is Jewish, though I never converted. That has caused all kinds of issues over the years, some that I’ve come to terms with and others that still ruffle my feathers. The fact that our daughter recently made a formal conversion to Orthodox Judaism is directly related to the fact that I chose not to convert, 26 years ago. When I chose to marry Smart Guy, I also agreed to take the 16 week conversion course, that was intended to lead to my conversion. I studied Hebrew, I studied Jewish laws, and the basics of the faith. I studied everything that might lead to becoming Jewish, but chose in the end not to convert. It was a difficult decision that did not sit well with my then soon to be in-laws, and has impacted my life in many ways since.
That decision is long in the past, and I have been a Jewish mother raising Jewish children for twenty-two years. I’ve done a good job, but it hasn’t always been easy. There were many times when I felt lost trying to figure out the right way to give my kids a spiritual and religious education and life that I did not have myself. There were times when I reconsidered and wondered if I might not convert after all. Judaism is a beautiful faith that I feel very close to and would consider embracing fully. That said, I have not converted and that means that my children are not technically Jewish, as Judaism is passed through the mother. My boys both identify themselves as Jews and do not struggle with these issues. However, to immigrate to Israel as our daughter would like to do, or to be seen as fully Jewish within the extended Jewish community (Conservative and Orthodox, not just Reform), they too would need to convert. It is a deeply personal choice and having not done it myself, I fully understood my daughter’s desire to do so. I may not have liked the steps along the way, but deeply respect her right to choose and her convictions. While I have struggled with her decision and the impact on our relationship, we’ve both come a long way in the past two years. I’ve come a long way in my own Jewish journey.
And so it is Yom Kippur and Smart Guy is at services right now, as are so many other Jews. I have backed off of this holiday, officially. I joke that I do enough atoning on a daily basis that I don’t need to go do it formally. However, it is not that simple. I am looking for some middle ground at this point in my life, in the issue of faith and my place in it. Don’t send me any comments about inviting Christ into my heart, that’s not the path I’m on for sure. I honor and respect those who are, but it is a path I left long ago. While I am not fully Jewish either, I know my place in the Jewish faith regardless of how others label me. So while I do not attend Yom Kippur services (I do attend Rosh Hashanah) I see the value in looking within and offering atonement for the things I sincerely regret. So, despite my post of yesterday, I am offering atonement for the things I feel regret for, or wish to change:
I am sorry for those I may have hurt in this past year, knowingly or unconsciously. I am sorry for the times I spoke without thinking and said things that caused pain, or insult. I could say that I didn’t mean it, but in moments of anger I know I have. In other moments I have perhaps hurt when I didn’t intend to. I offer atonement.
To my daughter, I am sorry that my choices so early in my life led to such difficulties for you. I cannot say that I would change those choices, as we each choose our own paths, and learn from that. However, I’ve often wondered if I would do it differently, had I known the hurt and struggle it would one day cause one of the lights of my life. I know you will grow from your own journey, and that you are a strong and determined woman, with deep convictions. I simply offer atonement for the role I played in your struggle, though I also smile in knowing how you have grown.
I am sorry for the times that I have not been honest: with myself, with others, in my heart or my thoughts. I want to do better with this. I believe in honesty and I offer atonement for the times I did not remember that.
I am sorry for the times I have judged others harshly, including myself. I struggle with this, but offer atonement as I work to improve this way of thinking.
I’m sorry for my dining room table. It’s getting better… but. I offer atonement for clutter.
I am sorry for not being close to my brother. There is little hope of changing that, but it is with me each and every day.
I am sorry for the distance between my sister and I. We do not make enough effort to be there for each other, and I hope to continue working toward changing that. I offer atonement for the many times I have let frustration and distance sit between us.
I am sorry for things that I’ve held onto, that have long passed. I hope to let them go over this next year and truly make peace with them. I offer atonement for the ways in which my holding on has held me back.
I am sorry that a dear friend and I have let distance sit. I will change this, in whatever way I am responsible for. I offer atonement and hope for healing.
I am sorry that I feel alienation with my mother’s family. Not all of them, but too many. I accept that I can’t change how others feel, but I offer atonement for the role I’ve played in any estrangement.
I am sorry for the times I should have just said I’m sorry, and didn’t. Letting go of the need to be right, that may take a while.
I am so very sorry for all the times I didn’t really listen to my mother and what she wanted. I am sorry for the times I belittled her, or judged her because of her disease. I regret the impatience and shortness I showed. I love her, and miss her and I offer atonement for the times I forgot that…
I am sorry for the times I have fallen short with my children. I will continue to work on personal change, and know that they love me and see that. All the same, for the times that my inadequacies got in the way, I offer atonement.
This is not a glib post. Nor is it me falling back on the many things I just addressed in For The Record (the post prior to this). I am not saying that I am not a good friend/mentor/ volunteer/mother/sister/cousin/aunt/niece… I am doing my best, most of the time. But I know that right now, for Yom Kippur, there is more that I can do. I hope to remember that more often in the year ahead and work on the things I’ve mentioned here, while remembering to forgive myself as well. Overall, I’m a good egg doing my best.
What do you regret from the last year? Are there things you wish you could change? Could you? Do you believe in atonement? Think about that.
Other posts about this: Ode to Girl Interrupted or My Jewish Identity Crisis, and here is a very cool Shofar blowing, at Sunrise in Israel. Truly stirring to know my girl is there during this amazing time.