There is an old Jewish tradition that is rarely followed now. On the most sacred night of the year, just before the prayer asking the Holy One for forgiveness, men and women approach their relatives and friends and neighbors and ask forgiveness for anything hurtful they may have done to one another whether accidentally or with intention.

Asking forgiveness is not easy. Sometimes it feels like a sign of weakness, or acknowleging that we are not as perfect as we pretend we are. We often don’t like to admit that.

And asking forgiveness means that we have to take ownership and responsibility for our behavior and that is difficult.

As a rabbi, I have more than once heard from parents and children and brothers and sisters who haven’t spoken to each other in years and so much time has gone by that they can’t even recall what started it all. And yet, the estrangement continues with no end in sight.

I have tried to mediate, but sadly most of the time, whether out of pride, or because it’s just too painful, people don’t want to make the effort. It’s just too much work. The sages asked:

Who is a hero? It is the person who has the courage to make an adversary into a friend.
@TheRunningRabbi (Click to Tweet!)

Will you have the courage to take the first step, to swallow your anger and pride and reach out? Then say to your parent or your brother or sister or your friend through the tears ” I miss you and I love you. I want us to get over the anger and look into each other’s eyes and not be alienated any more.”

May I have the courage to soften my heart and get over my stubborness and pride, and forgive the history of the past. May I take the first step and break through the wall of silence. In the words of the Prophet: “Is not this my beloved child? Even when I speak against him, I remember him with affection. Therefore my heart yearns for him. I will surely have compassion.”

Rabbi Hirshel Jaffe, a four time cancer survivor, is a motivational/inspirational speaker on the theme NEVER GIVE UP! He authored “Why Me? Why Anyone?” which chronicles his rescue from leukemia and his spiritual triumph over despair. Known as “The Running Rabbi” for competing in the NY Marathon, he received the “Award of Courage” from President Ronald Reagan in a White House ceremony. Rabbi Jaffe was one of the clergy who visited the American hostages in Iran to offer them comfort and hope and was asked by the President to greet them at the White House upon their return. He received an honorary Doctorate from his seminary for “his work with the sick, and his noble influence upon all people. You can follow him on Twitter.

Image courtesy of Ales Krivec.