A couple months ago I was in a yoga class and the teacher tried to address this Yogic notion that we’re supposed to love everyone. How do we reconcile the fact that are people basically good with the fact that some people are legitimately bad for us?
“In some cases,” she explained, “the best way to love someone is keep them very far away from you.” The expression of love is the mature choice to create appropriate boundaries.
I’ve been thinking about this lately because it’s the Jewish New Year, and it is the time when my brain is hard-wired to think about apologizing and atoning, even if it’s just to think: “I will prove how not Jewish I am by not apologizing to anyone, and answering my family’s apologies by saying, ‘I’m not Jewish anymore.'” Regardless of my shifting attitude towards religion, repenting is on my mind.
In particular, last year, I was jolted out of my anti-Jewishness because someone who I’d cut off four years before, who wasn’t even really Jewish when I knew her, emailed me to tell me that she suddenly realized how valuable this tradition was. It gave her the chance to contact me, and attempt amends.
I accepted her apology and offered my own; I attended her wedding to her (more) Jewish husband this August. In his speech, her father talked about the inherent hardship and reward of forgiveness. After his speech, he sought me out to officially welcome me into their lives again.
So this year, I started to think: maybe I should resume apologizing.
This year has been the most clear-headed, normal year I’ve had in a decade, so naturally I’ve offended tons of people, got in lots fights and have a lot of apologizing to do. I should be pumped up to go through the routine, right the wrongs and say the usual things.
But I don’t want to. Not because I want to take some kind stance against Judaism, or because I’m bitter and want others to apologize first. More than ever, I respect this tradition that asks people to truly reckon with what they’ve done, how they lived, who they loved and how they loved them. But I also respect my own traditions of late blooming, slow adjusting and procrastinating.
I think this time of year, and this window of forgiveness, are beautiful gifts–if you feel like accepting them. But I don’t believe that God’s waiting at his computer to tweet me into the Book of Life, so I feel that I’m entitled to a rain check. Not out of rebellion, but because I recognize that there are many people whom I still need to love from afar.
My friend’s apology was beyond welcome, but I have a feeling that if she’d tried to do it any sooner than four years after our fight, we might not have been ready. Now, when I think about some of the air I technically need to clear, I’ve realized that I still need the fog.
It’s not that I want to hold grudges, it’s just that there are some people I’d prefer to love from afar–much in the same way that I don’t hate New York, but I don’t want to be there, and I don’t reject Judaism, I just don’t “believe” in it.
I can’t (off the top of my head) think of anyone who’s disappeared from my life forever, although there are many people who have disappeared for several years–I’m lucky in that they always circle back. While there are certainly people in my life who will ultimately deserve an apology from me, I think if I knew what to say to them, I would have said it already.
Since I’m loving Judaism from afar, I’m choosing to forgo the behavior but acknowledge the tradition. I’m evaluating myself, and I hope that others are evaluating me. I just don’t want to talk about it.