Facing ourselves on Yom Kippur

How do you deal with regret?

Looking back on the year, you undoubtedly have regrets: If you only had gotten up the resolve to apologize that certain time. If only you hadn't lashed out during that one sensitive moment. If you only had reached out to that friend or family member.

The past cannot be undone. But Judaism strongly believes in our ability to change the present and the future.

According to Rabbi Irving "Yitz" Greenberg's "The Jewish Way," Maimonides speaks about three steps to true tshuvah, or repentance.

Regret is actually the first step to tshuvah. If you've done an honest assessment of the past year, you're probably already there.

The second step is rejection, or to stop doing the wrong action. No amount of regret makes a difference if you don't change.

The third step is resolution, the determination not to repeat the act again.

But how do you force yourself to change? Habits are so hard, sometimes seemingly impossible, to break.

Suppose you found out you were going to die a few days after Yom Kippur. Stop for a minute and really think about this possibility.

What would you change? To whom would you reach out? To whom would you apologize? To whom would you finally say, "I love you"?

One of our High Holy Day traditions is asking God to sign and seal our names in the Book of Life, instead of the Book of Death. Many of us think of these "books" as interesting concepts. But if we took this Jewish tradition to heart, we could really turn our lives around.

If we knew we were going to die soon, many of us would live our lives differently. Many, if not all of us, would finally become the people we've wanted to be. We would be kinder, more loving, more generous, more honest.

Every year, Jewish tradition offers us the chance for truly turning a new page. All we need to do is take that chance seriously.