Day of Atonement

This evening is the eve of the Jewish Holiday Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is probably one of the most important holidays in the Jewish Calendar. Unlike most of the other Jewish holidays, Yom Kippur is not celebrated by eating a large quantity of food. On Yom Kippur one is supposed to fast for the entire day. And one is supposed to atone for the sins you have committed in the past year – to say one is sorry, to ask for forgiveness and to forgive.

This evening is also the evening before I leave for my trip to New York City. I stand next to my bed and look at the piles of clothing and other things that I have been laying out – choosing what to bring and what to leave behind. Is this item what I want to take with me on my trip or is it something I want to and can leave behind me, unneeded?

I feel these piles are also an apt metaphor for Yom Kippur. Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur one must ask forgiveness from those one has wronged. And on Yom Kippur you are judged whether you have done right. I have hurt people. I have said unkind things. For this I am so very sorry. And like the items on my bed that I choose not to bring with me on my trip, I would rather not carry my atonement and its subsequent forgiveness with me. It’s not enough to just ask for forgiveness. The other half of the equation is that forgiveness is given. Without that, the books can not be closed and the journey becomes harder to continue.

I guess when I was younger, I thought that by the time I had reached 65 I would have figured out Life, be settled – know where I have come from, know where I am, know where I am going. But even at 65, it is still all so confusing. Where am I going? How will I live my life? What am I doing?

Tomorrow I will be traveling to New York City – the city of my heart. The first time back to the East Coast in over four years. The place I left almost 30 years ago to live here in Stockholm. I will be staying there for a whole month – the longest time back there in over 20 years. I am no longer the same person that packed her bags in 1987 to move to a foreign land. How will it feel to be reunited with my heart? Will we even recognize each other?

And after that month, I will return here to my home, Stockholm, to pick up the pieces of my life once again, hopefully forgiven. With all my baggage, all the pieces taken with me and even those I thought to leave behind – all the pieces of my life.

One Response to “Day of Atonement”

  • Stig Wegge Says:

    I have always admired the faith you find comfort in. And not just because of the great food on holidays. Cultural appropriation is a hot subject these days. People pick and choose aspects of other cultures or faiths or lifestyles to call there own. There are way too many white kids running around with dreadlocks, closet heterosexuals playing the “I’m so metro” game, and dabblers in the religion-as-a- fashion-statement movement. So I cannot in good conscience adopt this important holiday as my own. I cannot atone. I cannot infringe.
    But what I will do is give thanks and praise for the lives of Abe and Ruth Miller from Teaneck, New Jersey. They were concentration camp survivors who came to America and built a new life. Their son, Eddie, became a newspaper editor. Their daughter, Harriet became a professor at Harvard. Another child was lost to a rare disease, but his death furthered knowledge of the condition and provided light in a dark tunnel so that others might not suffer the same fate.
    The Miller’s took my mother in when she was very young and in need of shelter. They became lifelong friends. When my father died, they took me into their home while she mourned. For many years later, they came to our house to celebrate secular holidays and break bread. They helped shape my life and world views and I am eternally grateful for knowing them. They are written in my book of life. I can think of nothing they ever did or said that offended or hurt. I can think of nothing they had cause to apologize for.
    How different from the life I have led.
    I hope we get to see each other while you’re in New York.

    I would like to look you in the eyes and say “welcome back stranger”.
    You are a good and wonderful human being. I’ve missed you. Flaws and all.

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