“For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before the Lord” (Leviticus 16:30).
Once a year, on the holiest day of the year, God gives the world a precious gift. We have one day to stand before Him, confess our sins, and begin the next year with a clean slate. God can forgive us for all of our transgressions against Him, but according to Jewish tradition, God will not forgive us for wrongs against our fellow man. In order for God to be open to forgiving us for our sins, we must first approach people we may have wronged and ask for their forgiveness. Whether the wrongdoing is physical, financial, or emotional, we must ask for forgiveness, as well as compensate the person appropriately.
Not only must we ask for forgiveness, we must be open to forgiving. This can prove challenging for many people, but it is our duty to emulate God, and if we want Him to forgive us, and if we want to be forgiven by other people, we must open our hearts to forgive others.
If you are aware of something specific that you did to someone, you must specify it when you ask them for forgiveness. We must be sensitive though, so if specifying would embarrass the person, it is better not to. If the person refuses to forgive you, try again. If you are unable to get in contact with this person, make an honest resolution with yourself that you will get in touch with them after Yom Kippur. God sees what is in your heart, and He knows your intentions. Some people even visit graves of people they have wronged who have passed away in order to ask for forgiveness.
This lesson is so important. Many people think that their relationship with God is the most important thing, but God reminds us that in order to have a relationship with Him, we must first work on our relationship with others here on this earth. We cannot approach the Almighty and ask Him to forgive us if we are carrying sins and wrongdoings to other people. It is so hard to admit that you have done wrong and apologize. Sometimes it is even more difficult to forgive a wrongdoing. But, at the end of the day, if we want a clean slate with God, we must first have a clean slate with our fellow man.
At The Heart of Israel, we would like to wish all of our readers a happy and healthy New Year. May you all enter the new year with a clean slate, and may we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.