A Day for Casting Off and Forgiveness

I arise early on a very busy day. Part of my morning will be consumed with righting mistakes from my insurance company, which has managed to mess up the billing resulting from all the various medical procedures I underwent this summer. But instead of giving this task my immediate attention, the wonderful fog beckons, and with a cup of coffee in hand, I head down to the river...

It is breathtakingly beautiful on this day of Yom Kippur, which is the Jewish Day of Atonement. It is a day set aside for casting off what does not serve, and forgiveness. It is also a day for expiation, and making amends...

In the coolness of the morning, I drink in the visual feast of a sky that seamlessly merges with the water, partially cloaked by the density of the fog, and I cannot help but recall the day, three years ago, when I lost myself in the fog on Rosh Hashanah. I launched Grace, my kayak, and paddled into the void - losing myself in its embrace, as the Voice within chanted over and over again, the message that my heart needed so desperately to hear:

"Let go of holding on;
and hold on to letting go."

A few days later, I went back into the healing waters, and cast off lingering and festering resentments. I prayed to be forgiven for my sins and transgressions towards others - and practiced "Tashlikh," in a desperate act of self-cleansing and spiritual purification.

Three years later, I rejoice and express my gratitude to the Divine, for enabling me to release so much, healing so many wounds, so that I can now thoroughly delight in the many gifts received...

In a strange twist of circumstances, I find out that someone I haven't seen for years still bears deep anger and resentment towards me. I gingerly step into the river, sending this person love and compassion, hoping that someday, peace may find an abode in the heart of this tortured soul...

I come home to teach a student who is Jewish, and we speak of the meaning of this day for her. She tells me, that this year, she has chosen to focus on recognizing the lack of love and patience she often has for herself, and to make amends for this, and turn this pattern of behavior around. And I think to myself, this is such a wonderful lesson for me as well.

Amidst the busyness of my day, my thoughts come back to the importance of forgiveness and compassion for all persons, in all situations. It is so much easier to write off or be critical of the one who is different - the one whose politics or skin color, or religious tradition does not mirror our own.

I think of the river, and how in its wisdom, it once more reminds me to cast off what does not serve, and let go of all that separates and divides. In the Divine, we are neither Jew, nor Greek, Muslim or Hindu. We are neither black or white, or red or brown. Each one of us, in our rich diversity is simply a unique manifestation of the One who is in all of us - of the God who loves us all, as no one ever has, or ever will...

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