You may have seen this slang term on the Internet: “TL;DR,” which is short for “too long; didn’t read.” It is sometimes used to preface a summary of a length post, or it can mean that the post is being ignored due to its length. When we examine our fractured relationships, and the effort required to repair them, we sometimes arrive at the High Holidays with this mentality: TL;DR — too late; didn’t repair.
A few months ago, I posed a question on Facebook: What stops you from repairing your relationships? The most common answers were pride, stubbornness, anxiety around being vulnerable, a recognition that some relationships are not worth repairing or that the potential losses (of time, energy, effort) outweighed the potential gains; yet, the most common reason to not repair a relationship was fear, in its myriad forms. That fear is behind many of our excuses — it would take too long, too much effort, too much of us; so we don’t repair.
Judaism, however, encourages us to repair our relationships through the process of t’shuvah. Indeed, t’shuvah is the central part of the High Holiday season. T’shuvah is about asking yourself the question, “Is this who I want to be?” and then doing the hard work of changing your ways if the answer is “no” (and, honestly, the answer is often “no”). Rabbi Rachel Adler teaches, “T’shuvah is turning again to face the Other, not to annul what has occurred, but to sew up the wounds and determine how to go on.”
Rambam, the 12th century rabbi and doctor, outlined the four most important steps of t’shuvah: 1) Verbally confess your mistake and ask for forgiveness; 2) Express sincere remorse, resolving not to make the same mistake again; 3) Do everything in your power to right the wrong; 4) Act differently if the same situation happens again. (Mishneh Torah 1-2) This process may seem simple, yet its effects have immense sacred healing and spiritual powers.
I am sure you, like me, have also asked yourself the question posed by Justin Bieber: “Is it too late now to say ‘sorry?'” Our tradition answers very clearly: No! The High Holidays offer an opportunity to repair our relationships, but the Gates of Repentance are always open. It is possible to apologize and ask forgiveness through our last breath. Indeed, Judaism teaches that any moment, whether within the Ten Days of Repentance or not, can be used towards the sacred task of t’shuvah.
As you examine your relationships this High Holiday season, may you have the strength to overcome your fears, engage in t’shuvah, and make this a good, sweet year of healthy, repaired relationships.
TL;DR: Take the time to repair your relationships.