I first read Rabbi Alan Lew’s This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation during last year’s run-up to the High Holy Days, and I’m reading it again this year. The version I have is an ebook, which means that I felt free to do something I cannot bring myself to do with printed books: highlight passages that spoke to me in some way. (I cringe at the thought of dog-eared pages and scribbled notes in the margins, and I fully accept my own peculiarity on this score.)
This year, as I read, I occasionally run across a section of text I electronically highlighted during my first reading a year ago. It’s interesting to see if a particular passage jumps out at me as strongly this year as it did in my first reading. Here’s one that still has something to say to me today:
Forgiveness, it has been said, means giving up our hopes for a better past. This may sound like a joke, but how many of us refuse to give up our version of the past, and so find it impossible to forgive ourselves or others, impossible to act in the present?
A hope for a better past… I know I indulge in such revisionist-history fantasies every once in a while. (Okay, probably more than just once in a while.) While in the midst of that kind of reverie, the kind where all the “if-onlies” come out to play and lead to a better conclusion, or at least a conclusion in which I come out looking better, there is a kind of satisfaction. Our memories are more malleable than we’d like to admit. The question is, is it worth my time to sit down, roll up my mental sleeves, and spend my energy sculpting a vision of the way things “should” have been?
Or should I instead leave the past alone, unpolished by self-justification, and walk forward? I know I will miss the mark sometimes and need to ask forgiveness, and I know people will need to ask for mine. With such a journey ahead of me, who has time to worry about what cannot be changed except in imagination?
#BlogElul, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the month leading up to the Jewish High Holy Days through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.