Attaining Divine Forgiveness

Communal worship, seeking forgiveness, and these three family rituals can help make more Yom Kippur more meaningful.

Reprinted from, part of the network.

Yom Kippur, unlike most Jewish holidays, has few home rituals. It is made for communal worship. There are no festive meals, except the breaking of the fast. There are no silly costumes or upbeat songs. It does, however, provide children an opportunity to see their parents engaged in serious prayer and reflection, which sets an important example.

The Ten Days of Repentance--from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur--is a time that lends itself to serious family discussion. During that time, we face each other and ask for--and grant--forgiveness. This period of time culminates on Yom Kippur with a heightened sense of truly pleading for life. We experience the power of the questions we have been asking for the past ten days: What is the nature of our family relationships? What would we like to change in the way we relate to one another? How can I grow as a person? How can I better live in relationship to God? How can I do my part to bring healing to a broken world? How can I be a better parent and partner?


These questions are important because Judaism teaches that we cannot attain Divine forgiveness until we have seriously sought forgiveness from the wronged party in the community, at work, at home.

There are two ways Jews seek forgiveness: the traditional way and what might be called the "wimpy" way. We can approach the wronged party and say, "I'm sorry for the time I broke your computer and didn't tell you it was me." Or take the easier route and say: "Please forgive me for anything that I may have done intentionally or accidentally, that you may or may not know about." It is the custom in our extended family to take the wimpy path--which, frankly, is hard enough. We reserve the more terrifying route for our immediate family.

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