On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, while many Jews recite, in undertone, the formal script with which they ask for forgiveness, some might simultaneously be conducting an even quieter, personalized conversation with their selves. The personal conversation takes on a different tone and tenor than does the forgiveness formula:
If we were to dig beneath the surface of these personal conversations, we might find resentment. It is particularly within the relationships that mean the most to us that resentment occurs. By way of example, our relationships with our parents and spouses tend to be so essential to our emotional well being that we are often barely conscious of the feelings of disappointment and frustration that are, in varying degrees, also present. The negative feelings don't go away, so much as they head underground. We might only notice them, when we find ourselves somehow dodging the expectations of our loved ones, when we unintentionally make hurtful comments, when we act in passive-aggressive fashion.
Our relationship with G-d is not all that different. The thought of losing our connection to Him can be terrifying. Yet, we may have questions about fairness, about goodness, about the hand we’ve been dealt, in life. Some of us may feel abandoned, by G-d. We may have accumulated disappointments, perhaps even grievances. We become resentful.
Perhaps, even before we try to ask forgiveness of G-d, we need to begin the process of forgiving Him. It's not that G-d needs our forgiveness – at least not in a traditional sense. If, though, we find ourselves feeling disconnected from Mitzvot, if we inexplicably fail to the do the right things and are often doing the wrong things, if our behavior toward G-d carries the markers of resentment, it might help to reexamine the Teshuvah/repentance process. It may even serve us to have a conversation about (or with) G-d, so that our connection doesn’t become so tenuous, our spiritual selves so desiccated, that we can’t even begin to consider asking, with sincerity, for our own forgiveness.
Do you recall a teacher from school, Yeshiva or Seminary, who invited your questions? Do you recall a mentor a confidante who could listen to your heartfelt words, even if they were tinged with pain, sorrow and anger? Do you still have access to that person?
Are you able to speak directly to/with G-d about any of these thoughts and feelings?
The notion of sharing, with G-d, our questions, our hurt and even our grievances is not foreign to Judaism. Rav Nachman of Breslov encouraged his followers to share their private thoughts and feelings with G-d. Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berdichtov, was wont to air out his claims, in front of G-d, as it were. Stretching back, further in time, Iyov (Job) had much to say to G-d about suffering, and even Avraham directly questioned G-d’s justice – at least, in one setting.
Fear, mistrust and especially resentment are natural feelings. They will likely occur, in varying degrees, in all of our important relationships – including our relationship to the Divine. Instead of burying our feelings, perhaps, it’s time to share them.
Sharing our thoughts and feelings with G-d can lead to understanding and acceptance. It can also lead toward intimacy and forgiveness. When we become open to our own questions, we are ready to embark on the quest for answers. We may, over the course of time, make peace with what we can reasonably expect in a relationship with the Divine. Paradoxically, when we share our feelings of abandonment with G-d, we often come to feel less alone. Understanding, acceptance and openness form the soil from which forgiveness can sprout. When they come together, they make room for us to turn around and seek forgiveness from G-d.
May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life – a life that is filled with genuineness, wholesomeness and holiness.