When we sin against another person, we have to ask forgiveness directly of him. We are not allowed to ask G-d for grace or mercy until we have made attempts to receive forgiveness from the person we have wronged.
This is something we're supposed to be doing year-round. Consider the ideal a "just-in-time-inventory" of apologies, where the supply repentance keeps up with the quantity of transgressions, without back orders. Unfortunately, none of us realizes this ideal.
Before Yom Kippur can function as a day of atonement, we must make things right between one another.
That's the rationale of the "asseret ymei teshuva", the period of the Jewish calendar between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This time is set aside to take stock, ask and grant forgiveness from one another, and resolve conflicts.
It's a quiet and serious time, a time for healing relationships. It's a time for introspection and for reaching out. In contrast to secular new year's custom, we celebrate the Jewish New Year by making amends, rather than resolutions.
Four months ago, when I started this blog, I would have thought it silly - perhaps inappropriate - to include "virtual" relationships in this interpersonal reckoning. Since then, however, I have discovered how interconnected and personal bloggers' interactions can become.
In this short tenure, I have come to feel close to a large number of people I've never met.
We follow the details of each other's lives with the concern of dear friends. We carry on extended relaxed sometimes life-changing conversations and unlimited passionate debates. We anticipate the publication of their next post like children waiting for treats.
We agonize, cheer, and kvell as families full of children grow and mature, yet we only know them by their nicknames. Their idiosyncrasies, habits and talents are know to us only through the details revealed by and limited to the perception and understanding expressed by their parents.
Despite differences that would otherwise separate us, we listen and we react. We learn from people who we never expected to know. They provide us access and insight to worlds and worldviews of which we otherwise would have been unaware. We change each other's minds.
Another strange subset includes bloggers whose articles I read regularly, but react only in my own head. For whatever reason, I've lurked. I have never commented, or sent an e-mail to these authors. Yet I think a lot about what they have to say.
There are the blog-less commenters whose profile links lead nowhere, and the commenters who we feel we know well, but only from what they've said on another writer's blog. They don't know that they effect us, that they are characters in our story, too.
There are the readers who are family or friends from our"real" life community who we know are out there, some of whom share their thoughts in comments, some privately, and some not at all.
And then there are the anonymous lurking readers, who intrigue and motivate without saying a word. When they eventually reveal themselves, they bestow a precious gift.
As a result of blogging, I care deeply about a bunch of people I don't ever expect to know.
It's natural to feel a connection with an author or someone with whom one corresponds. However, the bond between bloggers feels qualitatively different from the relationship between reader and author in more conventional venues.
- Blogs articles are published quickly, without benefit or hindrance of an external editorial filter.
- They are interactive, yet impose no obligation to interact upon the reader.
- A blog's articles reach a worldwide audience immediately. They are exposed to completely untargeted markets.
- There is no intermediary deciding whether or not an author should post.
- "Rules" about structure and content are minimal.
- Blogs surprise us. They are written in real-time. When we are left dangling over a cliff of suspense, the writer is hanging with us, also wondering what the next post will hold.
- Authors appear suddenly, disappear with or without warning, and reappear at will.
- We drop in unexpectedly and are not surprised to find we are welcomed immediately. It is like instantly joining an infinite set of communities.
All human relationships involve the risk of discord and the potential for growth. The nature of the Internet multiplies both the reach and the risks inherent in communication. We often forget that there are people behind the text.
While it is impossible to ask for mechila (forgiveness) to an anonymous multitude, in "virtual" life, just like in "real" life, you do what you can. Thus, it makes sense that many Jewish bloggers have included apologies and requests for forgiveness from their readers during this season. Some of these were delivered pro forma, some anguished, some meticulously delineated.
One of my favorites is lighthearted yet heartfelt, and very clever, by Mother in Israel. It is formatted like the vidduy, the formal confession of the Jewish liturgy. Here's another great one in a similar format at Stepping off the Spaceship, also inspired by Mother in Israel.
Dear Readers, please forgive me for any transgressions I've committed against you, including but not limited to:
- For the author who sent me and review copy of her latest book. I told you I'd write an honest review of it only IF I liked the book. It's sitting on my night table, heavily annotated, with coffee stains on many pages and sticky notes stressing its spine. You probably think I hated it. I was flattered to receive an advance copy, and delighted with your text. I'm just waiting for an opportunity to do it justice. I'm sorry it has taken this long.
- For lurking, both actively and passively
- For approving comments between other tasks, and forgetting to answer them in a timely fashion
- For the memes I've ducked, and those I owe and plan to complete
- For the material you've sent me that I haven't figured out how to work into a post yet
- For the great post ideas and questions that were e-mailed to me but that I have yet to implement
- For the post suggestions that I don't plan to execute, because they are out of my scope
- For grammatical errors and silly assumptions
- For posts that were rambling and self-indulgent
- For that time I left the yeast out of the recipe (it's fixed now)
- For posts that were oblique and incomprehensible
- For articles full of untranslated Hebrew and Hebrish
- For the many times I published an article, only to revise and correct it every 2 minutes for the next three hours, resulting in a flaky, changing publication
- For wasting time that I should have been writing, obsessively checking traffic statistics instead
- For a haphazard, incomplete, and overlapping category structure
- For reading when I should be writing, and for writing when I should be reading
- For broken links not fixed and graphics mysteriously disappeared
- For questions unanswered and questions answered poorly
- For offering unsolicited advice
- For the appearance of having 'it' all together when I show systems that work for me. (I don't generally share the ones that don't, and it can make for a false impression.)
- For those who came here from entering specific and explicit keywords in search engines, but landed on an irrelevant page, that had nothing to do with what you were seeking
- For never contacting and thanking the two ladies who ordered Juggling Frogs clocks at the same time. You made my day, and I lost your contact information. I hope you're both enjoying them.
- For being disappointed when traffic statistic show a high unique hit-to-pageview ratio, assuming that the readers all came briefly and don't want to stay
- For being disappointed when traffic statistic show a low unique hit-to-pageview ratio, assuming that all the traffic that day came from one curious reader and that nobody else wants to visit
- For bad puns, both intentional and inadvertent
For all these mentioned here, and those mentioned there, for those I don't know about, for those that I don't realize bother you, and for those that I forgot to mention, Dear Reader, I ask your forgiveness.