Changing the Future, Not the Past:
A Reflection on the High Holidays, 2017

When I look around the room on Yom Kippur, observing the Stein residents and their families, I cannot help but wonder: What are they thinking while reciting the Jewish prayers regarding repentance, confession and Gd’s forgiveness? Is there an unspoken sense of sadness, feeling that change is only for the young? Is there a sense of loss, a feeling of missing out on the opportunities to become a better person? Do they wonder if after a lifetime of Yom Kippurs, do these words still contain meaning?

The process of changing who we are is fraught with difficulty. I find myself in awe of the confessions recited – about the ways one could have erred, how we treat others, and how we treat ourselves, our bodies, our minds and our souls. It is almost too overwhelming. However, I would suggest that these confessions are meant to be a guide to forward thinking and changing ourselves for the present and future.

There is a famous quote that reads: “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” At first glance, these words may seem despairing, suggesting that we cannot change who we once were, which, of course, is an absolute truth. Yet, if a person makes the conscience decision to change, at any age, the change starts now and moves forward. To be able to truly change includes finding the place to forgive our imperfections. It is that forgiveness that frees us from the past and allows us to spring forward with a new and refreshing sense of hope.

Many studies have shown that as we age there is an increased sense of happiness because people no longer carry the stresses of youth. The older we get, the more we realize that the things we fought so hard to change were not always as important as they seemed at the time. This, I believe, is an underlying theme of Yom Kippur. We ask and look for forgiveness, not because we can change what was, but because letting go of the weight of our imperfections allows us to refresh and move forward in the new year. As I witness our community in prayer on this day, I truly feel we are learning this important lesson –allowing the past to remain in the past, and keeping our sights set on each new day being above and beyond the day before.

May we enter this holiday season focused on forging ahead, improving the present and the future, and recognizing that we cannot change what was, but we can work to change what will be.


The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living is comprised of Stein Assisted Living, Jaffa Gate Memory Care Neighborhood, Stein Hospice, Wilentz Senior Residence, Wilf Transport, and The Foundation at the Wilf Campus. For more information, contact us at (732) 568-1155, or visit us at

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