Elana Frank on Forgiveness
Rosh HashanahCommunity

Elana Frank on Forgiveness

Elana Frank is executive director and founder of Jewish Fertility Foundation.

Every time Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur roll around, I get a little bit nervous. I guess you could say I’m “shaking in my boots.” Was I a better person this year than last year? How was I as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend? Or more specifically, is there anyone I have wronged with whom I need to (gulp) make amends?

A central theme throughout the High Holy Days is forgiveness. We are supposed to forgive others, and in turn, G-d is supposed to forgive us. Right? It’s what we’ve learned since Hebrew school and each year we try to get it right.

But there’s a type of forgiveness that people often forget, that flies low under the radar, but is just as important as the ones I mentioned before, and that’s forgiving one’s self. In all aspects of our lives, we tend to be harder on ourselves than on others. When it comes to fertility difficulties, this especially rings true. Often, we blame ourselves for something we could have done better. “If only I had tracked my ovulation better.” “If only I had eaten better.” “If only I had exercised more.” If only I had exercised less.” “If only I didn’t let things get to me so much to be so stressed out all the time.” Sometimes, in the midst of the pain, we blame our spouses, our doctors, even G-d, but without realizing it, many of us also blame ourselves.

The Torah commands in the book of Leviticus to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (19:18) This verse tells us that we must love others like we love ourselves. In fact, you can’t even fulfill this dictum unless you love yourself first! Forgiveness is about releasing the resentment we have against ourselves, about accepting ourselves as we are and letting go of our self-judgment and self-criticism. So often, we focus on forgiving others and G-d forgiving us on Yom Kippur, but we can’t forget how important it is to forgive ourselves. My blessing to you in the coming year is to embrace the power of self-forgiveness, releasing the resentment so that we can embrace all the future has to offer.

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