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  • Writer's pictureRabbi David Paskin

Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word


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From Rabbi David

I have a saying posted right over my desk in my office:

Apologizing does not always mean that you're wrong and the other person is right. It just means that you value your relationship more than your ego.

This lesson feels ever more present for me this weekend as we officially mark the beginning of the High Holy Days with Selichot on Saturday night. Selichot are prayers for Divine forgiveness, said during the High Holiday season or on Jewish fast days. And while the selichot that we will share together in synagogues around the world this Saturday night are communal in nature - they are intended to spur us to also ask forgiveness as individuals from others, from ourselves and from God.

Elton John is right - "sorry" does seem to be the hardest word. It is as if when we say, "I'm sorry" we are, at the same time, admitting that we are less than - that we haven't lived up to our potential. It's terrifying to have to admit, out loud, that we aren't all that we imagine ourselves to be. From a Jewish perspective, this admission is absolutely fundamental to the work of being human. We are not complete, we are not perfect. We are becoming and making plenty of mistakes along the way.

What I love about the quote on my wall though, is that it reminds me that selichot, and asking for forgiveness, isn't just about me and my shortcomings. It isn't just about my ego. Saying "sorry" is about nurturing relationship. It's about recognizing that you and I, together, are more important than I am alone.

I'm not a fan of offering blanket, fake apologies so I won't say, "I'm sorry if I've offended or hurt you in the past year." Instead, I hope when I do offend or hurt you, that you will allow me to own it and offer you my sincerest apologies. Not for my sake but for the sake of our relationships.

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