Danielle Sobkin

Self-Forgiveness: Insights from Yom Kippur

Growing up, Yom Kippur was synonymous with a sense of trepidation. It was a time shadowed by the daunting aura of judgment and reflection, a day that seemed to reverberate with the somber tolling of self-reckoning.

This High Holiday season, I found myself thinking a lot about the apologies I’ve made. I thought about each person I reached out to and the words we exchanged. It made me realize that saying sorry isn’t just about making peace with others — it’s also about making peace with ourselves. It made me acknowledge that not every apology is genuine. When we dwell in the realm of self-condemnation, unable to forgive ourselves, it is like a mirror reflecting our internal turmoil to the world. This inability to absolve our own wrongdoings creates a chasm between our desire for forgiveness and the perceptions of those we seek it from. When embroiled in our own guilt and self-reproach, the apologies we extend become hollow, our promises to change unconvincing, and our path to redemption obscured.

Yom Kippur, this year, didn’t feel like a day of judgment but rather a day of realization and awakening. Yes, I have made mistakes, but who hasn’t? Instead of feeling crushed under the weight of my misdeeds, I felt enlightened by the immense power of my potential.

Self-forgiveness is a mountainous task, and for someone like me, who has always been their own worst critic, the journey is strewn with obstacles. The journey of self-forgiveness is hard. It’s like trying to climb a steep hill where every step feels heavy, and looking back seems easier than moving forward. It’s filled with moments of self-doubt and guilt, moments where you feel stuck in your past mistakes, unable to see a way forward. It’s tiring, and it wears you down. Every day becomes a struggle to just feel okay about who you are. The weight of your own expectations and regrets becomes overwhelming.

I’ve always been the type to strive for perfection, a typical Type A personality, wanting everything to go according to plan, every detail to fall perfectly into place. A desire for control and a fear of failure have often been the drivers of my actions, pushing me to work harder, aim higher, and strive for more. In this relentless pursuit, the margin for error seemed nonexistent, and the room for forgiveness seemed scarce.

However, life, with its inherent unpredictability and imperfections, has a way of teaching us lessons we didn’t know we needed to learn. It was through the twists and turns, the unexpected bumps and unforeseen detours, that I came to a stark realization — things don’t always work out the way we want them to. Mistakes happen, plans fail, and perfection remains elusive.

In this journey filled with ups and downs, the need for self-forgiveness became glaringly apparent. It was no longer about avoiding mistakes but about learning to cope with them, to accept them, and to grow from them. It was about realizing that the pursuit of perfection was a mirage, a distant illusion that kept me running but never satisfied.

Realizing that self-forgiveness is necessary was like opening a window in a stuffy room. It was a breath of fresh air. It was about learning to be kind to myself, to give myself the grace I would readily extend to others. Being a Type A individual, the journey of self-forgiveness was not easy. It was a tussle between the ingrained desire for flawlessness and the newfound understanding of human imperfection. It was about battling the internal critic, the voice that echoed with words of self-doubt and recrimination, and learning to replace it with one of compassion and self-love.

This journey taught me that self-forgiveness is not a sign of weakness but of strength. I’m not lowering my standards by forgiving myself, but instead raising them to understand and accept myself. I learned to embrace my imperfections, quirks, flaws, and see them not as barriers to my success but as stepping stones to personal growth and fulfillment. Forgiving yourself is about learning to like who you are. It’s about looking in the mirror and being okay with the person staring back at you.

I learned that to truly live, to truly be happy, self-forgiveness is not just important, it’s essential. It’s the key to shedding the weight of past mistakes and embracing the future with open arms. It’s the foundation upon which meaningful relationships are built, starting with your own personal relationship.

And it’s not just a one-time thing. “Yom Kippur is over, check!” Much like the enduring spirit of teshuvah, self-forgiveness is a continuous process, a perpetual journey of self-discovery and renewal. There will be days when the weight feels too much, when the old guilt and regret come creeping back in. But it’s about learning to push through, to remind yourself of your worth and keep moving forward.

This journey, as tough as it may be, is crucial. Because if you can’t forgive yourself, how can you truly be happy? How can you build meaningful relationships with others if the one with yourself is broken?

Yom Kippur, a day that once loomed in my calendar as a symbol of solemn reflection, has been reimagined as something profoundly beautiful. It has transformed into a blank page — a canvas not entirely void but tinged with the subtle hues of past experiences and learned lessons. It’s a day that represents not an end but a beginning, not a judgment but an awakening. Despite the inherent challenges posed by my Type A personality, the relentless pursuit of perfection, and the stringent self-expectations, I’ve embarked on the journey of self-forgiveness. I’ve learned to extend grace to myself, to embrace my imperfections, and to view my mistakes not as irrevocable flaws but as invaluable opportunities for growth and enlightenment. In the gentle embrace of Yom Kippur, I’ve discovered the power of teshuvah, the transformative essence of self-love, and the liberating beauty of self-forgiveness, setting forth on a path of continuous self-discovery and spiritual renewal.

To a year of growth and self-forgiveness, G’mar Chatimah Tovah,


About the Author
Danielle Sobkin is a student at the University of California, Berkeley pursuing a double major in Data Science and Economics. With a deep connection to the global Jewish community, she has served on the Hillel International Student Cabinet (HISC) and works as a Data Scientist with Jewish on Campus (JOC). As the daughter of Soviet refugees and a first-generation student, Danielle draws inspiration from her unique background and aims to connect with others through her writing. She is passionate about conveying the importance of Jewish Joy in everyday life and creating a more inclusive and understanding community.
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