Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A time for repentance

The new academic year is closely aligned  with significant holidays in the Jewish religion, and these holidays coincide well with the beginning of another semester because they force me to think about how I can improve academically, socially and religiously.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, took place last week. This Friday is Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement,” and also the holiest day of the year in the Jewish religion. These holidays, regardless of whether one is Jewish or not, provide an opportunity for us to reflect on the past year.

During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we repent for our sins and ask for forgiveness. It’s a spiritual cleanse, in a sense. The traditional customs, which we still participate in today, include a fast from sundown to sundown as well as spending the day praying at synagogue services. In this way, we ask God for forgiveness and have a chance to reflect on the past and make future plans for self-improvement.

In his article “The Double Purpose of Yom Kippur,” Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik writes: “Sin and its punishment are born together. No sin goes without its retribution, whether it be meted out by a terrestrial or a celestial court.” I agree with his traditionalist view of sin and punishment, because if I do something that I believe is sinful and do not apologize or attempt to get the burden off my chest, the feeling will haunt me until I repent in some form. I’d rather get these sins off my chest sooner rather than later, but the yearly custom gives me opportunity to reflect and ask for forgiveness. I feel encouraged to correct my mistakes for the future. Others might not know of my wrongdoings, but a good conscience acts as a more effective regulator of decisions and actions than any person could.

If I do something bad to someone, and that person chooses not to confront me about it, it doesn’t make that action forgivable. If actions such as these are repeated, negative feelings will build up and likely lead to discord in relationships.

These small, irritating and sometimes offensive occurrences that result from mistakes we or others make may not seem like a big deal, but as Sowmiya Bhas of Health explains, “road rage, displacing anger, psychosomatic disorders as well as psychological disorders are all symptoms of bottling up and suppressing your emotions … If you do not address the core issue, you may end up spoiling your relationships or with chronic mental and physical illnesses.” She advises to “find a safe place where you can express freely without worrying about hurting yourself or anyone else.”

These effects may sound extreme, but they show that negative events and emotions are not good for the body. Stress can lead to physical illness, something college students should be aware of and do their best to avoid. Therefore, we should try to take the necessary actions to give or seek forgiveness for the tension-causing issues that we experience. It is important that students surround themselves with friends, peers and professors who are able to recognize problems and stresses, and in turn help affected students learn how to fix them.

Easier said than done, right? Try to make that a goal for this year. Think about mistakes from last year and try to make adjustments to prevent them from happening again. Oswald Chambers, an early twentieth-century Christian teacher from Scotland, said “conviction of sin is one of the most uncommon things that ever happens to a person.” I have found that it is challenging to admit your wrongdoings, but life is about living for yourself and for others, which requires introspection and reflection.

It is possible for repentance to be part of all of our lives at least once a year. It is not just a Judaic foundation, but also a theme in the Bible. For non-religious people, it is a positive life goal that makes for better relationships with others. Forgiveness is not always easy, but we must work toward it in order to have a happy and peaceful life.

Karen Podorefsky is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].


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