A Spiritual Practice of Forgiveness and Repentance

Practice 1: Repentance—a central practice for the period from August 16 (the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul) through September 23 (Yom Kippur).

Carefully review your life: acknowledge to yourself whom you have hurt and where your life has gone astray from your own highest ideals. Find a place where you can be safely alone, and then say out loud whom you’ve hurt how, and how you’ve hurt yourself. In the case of others, go to them and say clearly what you’ve done and ask for forgiveness. Do not mitigate or “explain”—just acknowledge and sincerely ask for forgiveness.

Woman blowing a Shofar.

She Blew the Shofar by Lynne Feldman. Credit: Lynne Feldman lynnefeldman.com

We do not start from the assumption that anyone has become evil. Rather, we envision any “sins” as “missing the mark.” We are born pure and with the best of intentions to be the highest possible spiritual beings we can be: we are arrows being shot toward God to connect more fully. Yet at various points in our lives, the arrow gets slightly off track and misses the mark. Repentance is really about a midcourse adjustment to get back on track, and it can be done every day. But we also recognize that each of us is embedded in a global economic system that oppresses and exploits many while systematically undermining the life-support system of the planet. We unintentionally benefit from that global system. So we have a spiritual and Jewish obligation to do more to find ways to transform our economic and political system and to support others who are similarly engaged in the struggle for a New Bottom Line of love, generosity, social justice, nonviolence, forgiveness, kindness, peace, environmental sanity, and celebration of all that is good and awesome about this universe. These seemingly utopian goals have now become a survival necessity for the continuation of life on earth.


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Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun, co-chair with Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue-Without-Walls in San Francisco and Berkeley, California. He is the author of eleven books, including two national bestsellers—The Left Hand of God and Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation. His most recent book, Embracing Israel/Palestine, is available on Kindle from Amazon.com and in hard copy from tikkun.org/eip. He welcomes your responses and invites you to join with him by joining the Network of Spiritual Progressives (membership comes with a subscription to Tikkun magazine). You can contact him at rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com.

Source Citation

Lerner, Michael. 2015. A Spiritual Practice of Forgiveness and Repentance. Tikkun 30(3): 8.

tags: Editorial, Judaism, Spirituality   
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