I’ve been watching True Blood and I’ve been thinking about Yom Kippur, which is coming up soon, and I’ve decided I’ve found a solution to all of my forgiveness needs.
I’m just going to forget everything. I’ll find some nice person willing to hit me with a baseball bat, or an anvil, or whatever it would take to erase the horrible things I have done in the past year. It will save me the time of writing all of those letters to people I have hurt; it will save me the guilt of remembering all the (un)intentional ways in which I have damaged God, the earth, other people, and the non-human children of God.
Good Lord, don’t we all wish sometimes it could work that way.
For those of you who don’t watch True Blood, here’s the basic deal: a Big Very Bad Vampire has lost his memory. Suddenly, he doesn’t remember all of the Very Bad things he has done. He is now sweet and loving and kind and would never intentionally hurt anyone. The girl of his dreams, to whom he had been extraordinarily cruel, now forgives him for every thing he ever did to her and falls madly in love. It’s brilliant – and I wish the world could work this way – especially as Yom Kippur approaches and I am faced with atoning for all of the harm I have done in the past year.
But has she forgiven him? Can she forgive him?
Judaism teaches that one must go to the person harmed in order to seek forgiveness. God can only forgive sins against God, while sins against humanity are left in our hands. We must seek out those whom we have harmed and repent.
Can we do this if we don’t remember? Memory-loss vampire can’t go to anyone and honestly repent because he doesn’t know what he has done. His apologies are, at best, honest but generic. He has no way to feel remorse, because he doesn’t know what he is remorseful of.
I admit – I want it. I want a clean slate. I want to forget the tears I have caused. I want to forget the horrible things I have said to people. I want to forget the less intentional harms – the times I have not listened as I should have, the times I have been more concerned about my well-being than that of others. I am (sometimes) jealous of the memory loss of the Vampire. He has the easy road.
Yom Kippur is a hard road. It is about guilt and repentance and brokenness. But it has something that the vampire will never have. It has grace, healing, community and love. At the end of the hard road, at the end of the tears and apologies and pain… there is honesty and the forgiveness that can only come from truly repenting what you have done. There is a cathartic cleansing that can only come from awareness of where the dark spots in your soul are. At the end of the hard road is the Book of Life, a community healed, and relationships repaired. At the end, we are kinder, more compassionate, more human because we have faced our darkness.
And we have a clean slate…
which means I can start biting people again.
After all, there’s always next Yom Kippur.