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Saturday, August 30, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 80.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Mama Madison: Not forgetting to say you're sorry
Lessons from Yom Kippur

This past week marked the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur. It's the one day Jews all over the world set aside to atone for their sins of the past 354 (the Jewish calendar is a lunar vs. solar one). But even folks who aren't super up on Judaic ritual, tradition or year length might know this High Holiday as the one on which Jewish people, in order to concentrate on spirituals needs vs. worldly ones, fast from sundown to sundown.

When I was a kid I tended to push the envelope when it came to breaking fast on Yom Kippur. I can vividly remember popping an M&M or two or snatching a slice of lox off the break fast table as early as 4:30 or 5 p.m. -- the sun was nowhere near setting. I had convinced my fifth-grade self that in the grand scheme of sinning, I hadn't really done too badly in 5737, the Jewish year at the time. Sure, I'd probably argued with a sibling once more than I should have and likely wasn't completely honest with my parents on what really happened to the leg of the dining room chair, but heck, I'd made it food-and-water-free until the late afternoon. Hadn't I already repented enough?

As I got older, my transgressions got a little more serious. There were sins of commission like the fight I instigated with a close friend in eighth grade whom I felt was ignoring me for cooler, more "popular" friends. And there were the sins of omission, too. While I tried not to be the one to spread gossip, I can't recall ever asking the gossip-er to stop. By this time, I was able to go the whole 24 hours fasting. But I'm pretty sure I never actually said "I'm sorry" to my fifth-period geography class acquaintance whose middle school reputation was severely tarnished by my unwillingness to pull the plug on the nasty rumors.

But there is nothing like the past 15 years, otherwise known as parenthood, to give that same girl the opportunity to think a little harder about the concept of atonement. I now have a lot more chances to make mistakes, both large and small, that affect the people I love most in the world. I lose my patience. I get easily annoyed just about every day. I have unfortunately resorted to bribery, especially when it comes to bedtime, on a regular basis. Yes, my personal list of sins has likely picked up dramatically since giving birth.

But if I truly do an honest examination of the past year, the issues I struggle with most are not so much my willfully doing something wrong, but more the not always actively doing something right. I forget to say "thank you" when the dishwasher gets unpacked without me asking. I hold on tighter at times I should be letting go. I don't always let my husband know how much I appreciate his support, love and partnering.

This Yom Kippur, the physical absence of food and water reminded me of those moments where I was absent--even just emotionally --from my family's lives.

Yes, the time for sneaking M&Ms has long since gone and I am able to wait for sundown.

But I really shouldn't have to wait for anything to say, "I'm sorry."

And I will plan to do better in 5773--no matter how many days are in it.

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