blogitto ergo sum

November 21, 2010

#162 – Slicha, I’m sorry.

Filed under: life matters,that Jewish thing — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 22:07
Tags: , , , , , ,

Yom Kippur is our atonement day.  Once a year, it’s all about accountability, asking for forgiveness, and the hope to be forgiven.

The Jewish mitzvot [generally translated as “commandments”, mitzva –singular] can be divided into two basic categories: one, between individuals and God [בין אדם למקום], the other between individuals themselves [בין אדם לחברו].

Praying, keeping Kosher or observing the Shabbat are considered mitzvot between one and God.

Charity, visiting the sick… and asking for one’s forgiveness are examples of mitzvot between individuals and others.

Praying cannot wash off the offenses, insults, ill-treatment you had given to others.  To correct those, one has to ask for the person’s forgiveness.

I’m mostly “observance-free”.  I do have some issues with rules and traditions that assume that turning the light on/off is labor intensive.  Same goes for boiling water or, more important, making a fresh cup of latte on a Saturday  morning.  However, this is Yom Kippur we are talking about.  This slicha thing is a mitzvah that I have great respect for.  Introspection; thinking of friends and colleagues I could have treated better, differently – this alone is a challenge.  We are so programmed to think about how we are right, that taking a time-out to concentrate on the wrong doing – this is Yom Kippur thoughts for me.

This year, for reasons beyond my awareness, taking responsibility, apologizing, asking for forgiveness demanded greater attention, and so I did.

I came up with my slicha plan.    

Many of you get my e-card.  For the local ones, those that I could do it face-to-face, there was a cookie to accompany the conversation.

And I had a list.

Sending a sorry e-card, while some may think is an impersonal thing to do, is a hard, non-trivial act.  I drafted it, found it too cold and remote, rewrote it, again, and then with a long sigh of hope, sent.  When you put your heart into it, admitting “I was wrong, please forgive me” is hard, regardless of the medium used.

Yet, hard as it was, face-to-face is much harder.  First of all it requires getting the person in a time/place he/she can and is willing to listen.  That’s challenge #1.  And then, how do you start a conversation with “I’m sorry”?  We are used to saying “I’m sorry” as part of a conversation, not to have a conversation about my being sorry and apologetic.

One big surprise was that I had no clue how hard accepting apologies may be for some.  Some couldn’t end the conversation fast enough.  Others wanted to be reminded of the details, “what are you apologizing for” they demanded.  Sad smile.  Given the opportunity, they not only wanted an apology they were not expecting, they wanted a full confession.  Fair enough.

Others were really-really hard to get hold of.  So hard, as a matter of fact, that though I managed to apologize via phone, I still have the cookie.  Taking responsibility for what I’m not proud of was a humbling experience.  Humbling and cleansing.  Without any crazy liquids, ceremonies and bitters to swallow, it felt very much like cleansing.  As I was making progress I could almost feel the physical lightness and “feel good” levels go up.

A challenge l almost failed was to prevent the conversation from turning into “you said, I said” conversation.  Slicha is not about who is more right… it’s about admitting and honing to my wrongs.  It’s not about the causes or justifications; it’s about the actions…

And of course, there were tears.  If you read this awaiting an emotional confession, I will let you down.  I didn’t have any broken heart or lover to apologize to.  Friends and colleagues, you and you that are part of my [everyday] life, it’s damn hard to tell you “I’m sorry”, damn hard to admit that I should have done better, should DO better.

The last conversation took place a couple of hours before Yom Kippur started, on Friday afternoon.  There were raw emotions, there were tears, there was a huge effort to deliver it as intended.  Then I went home.  And was sad-happy.  A friend of mine whom I’ve shared my slicha plan with, said that adding cookies to the slicha mix ridicules it.  On that Friday night and now, two months later, I know it wasn’t the case.  I think of the cookies as a token of my commitment to try and be better this year.  I may fail here and there, say things I’ll regret, make mistakes, offend and be sorry.  That’s the way it is.

I didn’t go to shul, I didn’t pray.  I said what I had to say, and this was it.

Note: searching the links to the Jewish terminology included, i came across a blog that asked slicha in a much more public way than i did.  enjoy §238 Slicha – I’m sorry



  1. Don’t forget my ccokie!

    Comment by ruabelk — November 22, 2010 @ 08:41 | Reply

    • oh. did i tell you? Cookie has been waiting for you to figure out your cookie-address.

      Comment by yael wagner — November 22, 2010 @ 09:13 | Reply

      • Cookie Address
        24 Ross St.
        South Berwick, ME 03908

        Comment by ruabelk — November 24, 2010 @ 12:04

  2. […] I was confused by some of the responses to my Slicha, a couple of friends pointed out that admitting mistakes and asking for forgiveness may be hard on […]

    Pingback by #164 – not the book or arrogance « blogitto ergo sum — December 15, 2010 @ 16:47 | Reply

  3. […] a year ago, for yom Kippur, i had my very own slicha project, clearing my conscious of stuff i regretted and wanted to wash off my slate. i shared it with you in chapter #162. […]

    Pingback by #197 – Todah Raba, Thank You « blogitto ergo sum — October 7, 2011 @ 18:34 | Reply

  4. […] of my birthday; the two are one and the same, leaving me no escape.  Two years ago, I had my Slicha project.  And it felt right, appropriate, a true act of cleansing.  Last year’s Yom Kippur was […]

    Pingback by #210 – Happy. Limited. Yom Kippur 2012 « blogitto ergo sum — September 23, 2012 @ 11:08 | Reply

  5. […] example, in 2010, I had my Slicha, I’m sorry project, posted […]

    Pingback by #217 – That New Year Stuff | blogitto ergo sum — September 29, 2013 @ 16:19 | Reply

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