During the High Holy Days, we ask God for forgiveness, and we ask people in our lives that we have wronged — in word or deed, advertently or inadvertently — for forgiveness. But what does Judaism say about forgiving ourselves?
Maybe we haven’t treated our bodies with the kind of compassion we deserve. Maybe we haven’t lived up to our own expectations, so far as our family or work or charitable obligations are concerned. Does Jewish tradition provide a roadmap for self-forgiveness?
As we strive to love others, we often forget to love ourselves. It is as if self-love is forbidden. But actually, it is commanded in the Torah. Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18) teaches that self-love is an imperative. As we deepen the love for ourselves, we deepen the capacity to love others.
We have so many regrets. There are so many times that we could have — or should have — chosen a different path or gone in a different direction. Every time we use the word “should,” we accuse ourselves of not doing our best. Guilt and regret are heavy on our souls. Imagine how much creative and loving energy we would have if regret and guilt did not weigh us down.
Love heals. It heals the wounded soul, it heals the relationships we cherish, it heals the world. Self-love strengthens our ability to be loving beings. And it takes practice.
Try offering this affirmation daily for a period of time. Forgive yourself and practice bringing self-love into your mind and heart.
God, thank You for helping me see
that each phase of my life is perfect.
that I have arrived,
that I’ve always been where I need to be
living perfect moments…
With Your help, I relinquish my need to judge.
Help me grow with love, acceptance, and curiosity.
Thank You for lighting my way for gently illuminating a path in the darkness…
Let it now be and always be
Yet another exquisite phase.
For the crimes against myself, I am sorry.
For all my slips and slides, I forgive myself.
Rabbi Karyn Kedar is the author of several books, including “The Bridge to Forgiveness: Stories and Prayers for Finding God and Wholeness” (Jewish Lights, 2011). This answer was adapted for My Jewish Learning from “God Whispers: Stories of the Soul, Lessons of the Heart” (Jewish Lights, 2000).
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.