This week is Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday of atonement.
The common understanding around Yom Kippur is that we must apologize to our fellow humans before we can do teshuva — repentance — before God on Yom Kippur.
I view apology and forgiveness as a result of our teshuva, rather than a prerequisite.
As I’ve written before, the root of the word teshuva means to return. These are the 10 days in which we return to ourselves.
When we are locked in fear, doubts, anger and mistrust, we separate from others and ourselves. In this state, we say and do things that are not aligned with the truth of who we are.
On Rosh Hashana, the sound of the shofar calls us back. It asks us to consider who we really are and what we value.
The process of doing teshuva is one in which we reconnect to ourselves — our authentic selves, unencumbered by the fears, doubts, and anger that often get in our way.
When we are locked in fear and anger, we disconnect from our truth. We separate from ourselves and others. Everyone else is an “other” — a person in the way of what we want — not a human being. This leads us to do or say things that we might not have said if we were connected within ourselves.
Through teshuva we return to our truth.
From this perspective, we see the oneness of all beings. We can see that our differences are superficial, our humanity universal.
I love the Interpretation of atonement as at-ONE-ment. The recognition of this oneness tells us that when we hurt ourselves we hurt others, and when we hurt others we hurt ourselves.
Once we have returned to our true selves, we can see with a new perspective how we acted when we were disconnected. And we have genuine remorse, because it wasn’t our true nature.
This is the source for authentic apology.
When we apologize to our fellow humans, and to God, this is what we are saying:
Those things I did/said: that’s not who I am when I’m in my truth.
In this way, authentic apology is a result of teshuva — returning to ourselves and to the Divine presence, rather than a prerequisite.