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This Week's Torah Thought
From Rabbi Miller Shanah Tova | שנה טובה
September 29th, 2017 9 Tishri 5778 Erev Yom Kippur
To My Dear Students,
At shopping centers, airports, office buildings and restaurants that are undergoing construction, a sign is frequently posted reading: “PARDON OUR MESS.” It occurs to me that this is an apt request that each of us can make on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
For we come to the Synagogue not with boasts of our accomplishments and pride in our achievements, but with the humility and contrition born of recognizing our deficiencies and defects. We want to construct a better person out of the raw materials G-d has given us and in order to do so we must contend with the messes we have made in our lives. These messes may be in our relationships or in our failures to live up our potential.
Sometimes we cause the messes inadvertently. We honestly meant well but the response was not what we had anticipated. At other times, we consciously meant to say something mean or willfully do something hurtful and the reaction is just what we expected and hoped for. But whether the act is accidental or purposeful, it always takes longer and much more effort to clean up the mess than it was to act in the first place.
On Yom Kippur, at the very outset of Services, we declare our understanding that the messes we have made between ourselves and G-d cannot be straightened out until we have tended to the messes we have made between ourselves and other people. “Yom Kippur atones for transgressions between man and G-d, but for transgressions against one’s neighbor, Yom Kippur cannot atone until he has appeased his neighbor.” We cannot come to G-d asking for forgiveness unless we have first asked for forgiveness from others through acts of contrition and repentance. G-d will not forgive our cruelty to another person until we have apologized to that person and sincerely sought his or her forgiveness.
We are all “under construction.” We need G-d to forgive us, PARDON OUR MESS, and grant us atonement, knowing that G-d’s pardon is contingent on our seeking it from our fellow human beings.