Yesterday I participated in a webinar by Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer of the Shalom Hartman Institute about Teshuva in a Time of Darkness. He spoke about how we know we are forgiven on Yom Kippur, and how are we supposed to deal with the uncertainty when God is absent (reminding me again how Judaism is so much about carving order out of chaos, how uncertainty is terrifying). At the end of this horrible, terrible summer when war, and trauma, and beheadings, and invasions, how we turn toward our true selves, how we mend our relationships seems almost superfluous.
The ancient rabbis also dealt with horrible, terrible summers—the destruction of the Temple, the place where they felt the connection to the Holy was most palpable, the summer of the Bar Kochba revolt being squashed, exile, death. As they created what became rabbinic Judaism, they consciously moved us to accept that God would forgive us (evidence to the contrary) if we followed the (new, post destruction) Yom Kippur prayer rituals. They also innovated with that famous line, “For transgressions as between man and the Omnipresent the Day of Atonement procures atonement, but for transgressions as between man and his fellow the Day of Atonement does not procure any atonement until he has pacified his fellow” (Mishnah Yoma 8:8-9). The Torah never mentions this. But the rabbis seemed to decide that we could gain certainty of our being forgiven if we could obtain forgiveness from the people we have harmed.
So with this teaching in my head yesterday, I watched myself in relationship, and the picture was not pretty. My anger flared at someone I love and I did not behave as well as I might like. It was sort of like being angry at someone for being angry at someone else. No, it was exactly like that. My loved one was angry at someone who had made a mistake that he had worked to rectify as soon as possible. I was angry that my loved one could not be accepting of someone making a mistake who was trying to make amends. But then, I have to ask, was I also angry at someone making a mistake—but who was not trying to make amends? I can argue that the mistakes were qualitatively different. He might disagree. I want him to calm down sooner than he seems to be able to. Who am I to set his timetable? How can I, from my own anger, ask him to calm down?
I guess I have more work to do.