Atonement for (Almost) Everything

September 26, 2012 - 5:00 am

“ . . . because on this day atonement will be madefor you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins.” — Leviticus 16:30

Scripture tells us that Yom Kippur is a day of atonement for all of our sins . . . but there is some fine print. The Sages explain that God can forgive us for everything that we have done wrong in regards to our relationship with Him. But when it comes to our relationships with other people, it’s another matter.

God says, I can forgive you for going against My will, but I do not have the authority to speak on behalf of anyone else. Only the person you harmed can grant you forgiveness. All the tearful prayers in the world cannot wash away the hurtful words you said.

That’s why Yom Kippur has become a time of asking forgiveness, not just from God, but also from the people around us. We recognize that if we are to walk away from this holy day completely cleansed, we need forgiveness from everyone who we may have hurt. It’s not easy to do, but Yom Kippur reminds us that it’s worth it.

Consider this true story – Shmulik was having a terrible morning. He had a heated argument with his wife which he concluded by walking out and slamming the door behind him. Rivka, his wife, was visibly hurt. Fifteen minutes later the phone rang. “Hi Rivka, its Shmulik. I’m heading into the tunnel and I just wanted to say that I love you and I’m so sorry for what happened before.”

Why the sudden change of face?

Shmulik and Rivka live in a small town in Israel and this story took place during the years of the Intifada. In those difficult times, the road from their town to Jerusalem became extremely dangerous and many innocent people lost their lives in sniper attacks. People started calling the tunnel on that road the “Tunnel of Love” because when you entered the tunnel, you realized what’s really important in life. It suddenly dawned upon you that there really isn’t anything worth fighting over. Your fervent wish was to make it home alive and see your loved ones again, because after all is said and done nothing matters more than your relationships with the people in your life.

Yom Kippur is very much like that tunnel. The time to repair hurt relationships is now — before it’s too late. It’s hard to ask for forgiveness, but even harder to live without it.


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