Moving Forward and Letting Go: A Yom Kippur ritual for 5784

“Forgiveness, it has been said, means giving up our hopes for a better past.” ― Alan A. Lew, This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation

August 29, 2023

By Rabbi Lonnie Kleinman

Meditating on the above words by Alan Lew, this year, I’m sitting with what it means to forgive myself for the ways in which my past falls short of my fantasies. I so often fantasize of what it could have been, and in turn how I would have been different.  My hopes for a better, safer, calmer, and more affirming past sometimes overtake my experience of the present.

Let me tell you a bit about my life as it is now.

I live in a sweet row home, on a block full of queers. In fact, on one side of me is an elder lesbian couple I’m very close with and the other side houses a younger lesbian couple I giggle with on weeknights. I’m living out my wildest gay fantasies on a daily basis. 

And yet, I still grieve for what I didn’t have growing up.

I often dream of what it would have been like to be raised by the couple next door to me. They’re not perfect no, as no one is, but I would have had two moms! A model for what my life could look like. Instead, I’m often left feeling like I have to dream up and create from scratch what my relationships can and will look like. I’m left battling the internalized homophobia handed to me by my community of origin and the society we all live in.

As we live into Yom Kippur, I think of the journey toward forgiveness that began with the first day of the month of ELUL. This is a practice of forgiveness for myself and others. I’m journeying toward it— I can’t promise I’ll reach it per say, but I can try. 

(In no way am I suggesting we forgive or accept internalized homophobia— rather, we must love ourselves harder, hold our partners closer, and dream bigger.)

I find Alan Lew’s words inspiring,  yet I don’t want to “give up” my hopes of what my past could have been. I want to accept what was. After all, owning my present means forgiving and accepting my past. 

In the spirit of the season of forgiveness, I’ll offer you some prompts for reflection. Feel free to meditate on them or journal with them. I hope they bring openings and guidance for this year ahead. 

  1. What parts of your past do you want to work towards accepting?
  2. What do fantasies of what your past could have been like teach you about the present or the future?
  3. What does forgiveness of self look like? What does it feel like? 
  4. What do you need to move forward while accepting and letting go of past fantasies?

I’ll leave you with a blessing I want for you and for me — May we all continue to live lives our younger selves couldn’t have even dared imagine for us.