Years ago, a co-worker of mine who happened to be Jewish popped into my edit bay and asked if I had a moment. When I invited him in, he asked me if I’d ever heard of Yom Kippur.
It was one of those simple Yes or No questions that I couldn’t fairly answer either way.
Yes, I had certainly heard of Yom Kippur. But if he was asking if I’d really looked into it to determine exactly what it meant to Jews around the world or why it was significant, the answer was certainly no.
He smiled, apparently fully expecting my complicated answer to his simple question.
Then he proceeded to explain it.
Yom Kippur is the holiest of days in the Jewish calendar, the end of one year. It is the tenth and final day of Rosh Hashana, the start of the Jewish new year.
The custom for Jewish people was to atone for their sins on this holy day, not only to God, but to others they may have wronged over the past year. Yom Kippur actually means “day to atone.”
I liked this co-worker of mine and always had. He had always been kind, always been easy to work with. He always had time to say hello and flash a genuine smile. He always made time to ask how people were doing and, by all indication, cared about their responses.
He certainly had nothing to “atone” for to me.
Yet he gave me a sincere apology for anything he might have done that upset or offended me, or for any wrong he might have committed against me, even if there was one I felt that he wasn’t aware of.
Aside from being surprised that he’d feel the need to apologize, I was quite taken by that last part. It occurred to me how often any of us might wrong someone unintentionally and unknowingly. The wrong we commit isn’t something we’re able to detect, but we still manage to cause hurt to someone else, and for whatever reason, we don’t seem capable of noticing that the other person has been wounded by our words or deeds.
We shook hands and I thanked him for stopping by. And I couldn’t help but admire the custom, even though I’m not Jewish.
I couldn’t help but wonder how many people I’d wronged over the past year without even realizing it.
And I couldn’t help but wonder why everyone, regardless of their faith, or lack thereof, wouldn’t want to do more to make sure they’ve taken steps to bring that level of forgiveness to the table with those around them.