In this season of atonement, Jews of every stripe of observance stream into synagogues to recount their wrongs. Beating their breasts in repentance, they beg for absolution for the sins they have committed in their daily human interactions over the past year. On Yom Kippur, many wear canvas sneakers, the plainest of shoes, in a show of simplicity and humility.
As singles, trying on different slippers and hoping for a perfect fit, we have assayed to squeeze ourselves into many an improper shoe during the past year, blistering ourselves and others in the process, becoming callused as we try to move our lives forward. This battered state yields an impressively long list of dating-related crimes and misdemeanors (and uncomfortable memories). It is only fitting that past and current singles seize this moment to take stock of the unique ways that we have wronged each other, as men and women populating the same singles pool. Once and for all, let’s take the sin out of singles.
Just like the Chet — the prayer in the Yom Kippur liturgy wherein the individual confesses to a litany of collective sins — this original reading is also written in third person plural. We may not recall having committed each of the individual sins in this reading, but as members of the global singles community, we admit to every transgression, in the New Year’s hope that the memory of this confession will make us think twice before committing future infractions.
Preliminary studies suggest that this reading is at its most potent when read responsively before or after a singles event. For maximum dramatic effect, read the first two lines in each stanza responsively, first men, then women. The third sentence should be recited by men and women together. And while we’re asking God for forgiveness, remember — it can’t hurt to beg for a vision or a bat kol (heavenly voice) that reveals the e-mail address of your beshert (destined partner). Or at least a location, so you know whether you’re trying on uncomfortable shoes in the right city.
Forgive Us: A Reading for the Dating Penitent
For the sins of men against women, And for the sins of women against men, For all of these transgressions, O God of forgiveness, pardon us, forgive us, grant us atonement.
We said we’d call. We said we’d call back. We were dishonest with you and with ourselves.
We have let the ball drop. We have refused to pick up the dropped ball. We have preferred the safety of solitude to the instability of possibility.
We have rejected you for being too fat or too plain. We have rejected you for being too short or too bald. We have judged you according to external appearances and drawn assumptions from the superficial. We have detested you for your being too materialistic. We have detested you for being too superficial. We have hated you in our hearts.
We have told you that you were “like a sister” to us. We have told you that you were “a really great guy.” We have lacked the fortitude to transition friendship into romance and consigned you to the torment of “The Friend Zone.”
We have blown you off on the street and in front of our friends. We have pretended not to see you in bars and at singles events. We have behaved poorly and inhumanely, in favor of maintaining our own comfort.
We have demanded too much, too soon. We have pressured you into emotional commitment. We have operated according to our own interests and agendas, unconcerned with your feelings or opinions.
We have eschewed dating in favor of hot wings and professional sports. We have eschewed dating in favor of Cosmo and “Sex and the City.” We have escaped into comfort zones of food, alcohol and television to avoid potential heartbreak.
We have asked for your business cards at parties, even though we had no intention of calling. We have waited by the phone for the call you had implicitly promised. We have lived in communicational deception and delusion.
We have bantered too freely, creating a perceived depth to dialogue that was meant only at face value. We have flirted without follow-up, using subtle encouragement to convey enigmatic interest. We have left you in confusion, pondering the true intentions of our fearful hearts.
We have proposed second dates we had no intention of confirming. We have accepted second dates we had no intention of attending. We have chosen a slow fadeout over honesty, denying you the dignity of a truthful closure.
(Read together) For the sins of men against women, And for the sins of women against men — For the sins of dating on the Internet, And for the sins of dating in real life — For all of these transgressions, O God of forgiveness, pardon us, forgive us, grant us atonement.
Esther D. Kustanowitz is a columnist for the New York Jewish Week, where this column previously appeared.