In the song “South Central Rain,” Michael Stipe belts out the words, “I’m Sorry” so often that it has become the unofficial name of this great REM tune. The song is actually an act of contrition, or so I have been told, as he is lamenting choices he has made that cost him the friendship of two people and broke up their marriage. His call sounds sincere, and his efforts to create a chance to perhaps make up for his indiscretion can be found in between the words. Using his art he lays his emotion out for all to see. In doing so he is making the case that he truly feels the hurt of hurting others.
“I’m sorry” is a common phrase these days, or more precisely “I’m sorry if…” Sometimes people think they are the same. They are not. A real statement of sorrow for one’s own actions does not need conditions. I cringe when I hear a politician or media star say, "I'm sorry if". When you know what you did was wrong atonement does not need a condition.
We are entering the time of year where we do a self audit and ask forgiveness of others. Like Stipe who was not looking to parse his words, we must not feel sorry if and only if, we offended someone. If we know our actions were inappropriate, the “I’m sorry” should be as much for our own recognized failure as for the person or persons we may have hurt. We have once again been given an opportunity to seek our own heart and to discover our own failings. We can learn by them. If we only say , “I’m sorry if,” we are putting the burden on the person we hurt. That is not what Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are about.
For all my Jewish friends may you have a wonderful and meaningful Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, and if you are traveling or have friends and family who are, may all arrive safe.
Shana Tova v’metukah.