This week’s Torah portion (Acharei mot- Kedoshim) conveys the procedures of Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. The Ohr Hachaim comments that without this opportunity we would all be damaged and pained by the burden of our sins. God granted us a cleansing procedure to free ourselves of guilt.
The burden of guilt
Many of us walk around with constant guilt over our past actions or inactions that have let God, oursleves or others down. We refuse to forgive ourselves and instead carry a burden leading to anxiety, shame, low mood, and poor self-esteem. This guilt prevents us from leaving behind the pain and damage and holds us back from reaching our potential.
Formula for forgiveness
Maimonides explains that atonement is achieved through confession, regret of the sin and acceptance not to repeat it. No matter how many times we stumble, the procedure remains the same. Psychology recognizes that guilt is beneficial as a moral compass and a motivator. However, it must be used positively and should not constantly occupy our thoughts. In order to dissolve guilt, we must try our best to rectify the situation and develop a plan to prevent it from recurring. Once that is accomplished there is no benefit in perseverating on the past. Let’s use the God given gift of forgiveness to heal our wounds, and grow spiritually and psychologically.