Monday, September 21, 2009

Forgive Me, Humanity

Imagine what it would be like if you climbed to the top of Mt. Everest, looked out onto the expanse of the entire world, and shouted, "Forgive me, everyone!"

We're in the aseres yemei teshuva right now: a period when we're supposed to be thinking seriously about ourselves, our attitudes, our behavior, and our actions. We have ten entire days devoted to doing teshuva. In addition to doing teshuva before G-d, we're supposed to realize the wrongs we have done to other people and ask them for forgiveness. Really ask them, I mean. I am just wondering...do mass text messages really count? What about facebook statuses? Gchat?

There is a fear in actually asking someone for forgiveness. Doing so means facing the fact that you did something wrong. It means admitting to another person that you have wronged him/her. But what is teshuva? Is it not turning towards something wrong you did head-on, grabbing it by the ears, and cleansing yourself of it? Is it not looking at yourself and really seeing who you are? What you've done? What you haven't done? What you should have or should not have done? Admitting, "Yes, these great characteristics are me, but I have also done this wrong behavior?" It takes a certain amount of lowering of one's pride to do that. It takes strength to apologize. It takes even more strength to apologize with conviction, and to really try to improve your behavior, your attitude, or whatever it is that needs improving. And then, by the way, you can build up your pride again, for you can feel proud that you had such strength and acted on it.

It takes no thought at all to make your facebook status, "I'm mochel everyone, I hope you're mochel me!"

True - we may have hurt someone without even realizing it. But sending out a mass text message or a status on facebook is not asking for forgiveness. The sentiment is nice - and, honestly, it really is commendable to want to be able to ask everyone for forgiveness. I just don't think doing so in the form of a mass text really counts.

Of course, someone could say - how can I go over to all my friends and ask for forgiveness? That would take forever!

I don't know. I don't know what's correct or incorrect in such circumstances. I would try, for myself, to ask people who I think it is most likely I may have hurt or wronged in any way. Or who I know I for sure did. I doubt I've done anything specifically wrong to someone I haven't spoken to in a number of years, for instance.

Sending out mass texts is like walking around with a t-shirt that says, "Mochel me - I'm Jewish." Mochel you? For what? For being Jewish? For being on my friends list on facebook?

I'm sorry if this post sounds a bit harsh. I just think we all ought to consider how impersonal status updates and mass text messages are. I hope that for every mass text, there are at least a few personal forgivenesses being asked for, as well.

Besides, on the flip side, don't put yourself down so much. You probably don't need to ask all of humanity for mechila. :)

On the topic of teshuva (and to lighten the tone of this post), I read a nice, short article by R' Twersky called, "Teshuva: In Your Mouth And In Your Heart." It's a couple of years old, so it's possible a bunch of you have already read it, but it discusses how teshuva is not something completely out of our reach: that even if you think you've been immersed in sin for so long, your teshuva can still be accepted and that is not a reason not to try and do teshuva.

I believe this can extend to anything you wish to do in life. It is never too late to learn something new, to try something new...you're never too old to start something. My music professor at Stern had only just started learning to play an instrument, even though he had gone so long without knowing how (it was not a class in playing an instrument, clearly). So many great, classic writers did not start writing their magnum opus novels until they were well past middle age.

If there's something you wish to do - go for it. Who cares if you're not ten years old anymore? Or twenty? You don't have to have been a child prodigy in something in order to accomplish - or to simply enjoy yourself. And it's never too late to learn something new about yourself, too - like discovering a new talent. You'll never know if you don't try - and you only live once, you know!

I find that while I'm looking at myself and who I have been until now, I like to also look at who I can be in the future. But, of course, that is something that must be discovered, and it can only be discovered by taking chances, trying to new things, thinking about new ideas, etc.

I hope you all had an amazing chag the past two days and that you had/are still having an easy fast today!

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