Knowing Our Why // Atonement and Restorative Justice

Beginning this evening, some of our Jewish community members will be observing Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. One aspect of atonement that I find fascinating is the concept of Teshuva, or repentance. 
Teshuva literally translates to “return”—a return to wholeness and right relationship. One scholar of Jewish ethics described the primary purpose of repentance in atonement as one of ethical self-transformation.
The concept of Teshuva resonates with me, and I can clearly see the connections to our own practice of Restorative Justice here at Berkwood Hedge School. In practicing Restorative Justice, we ask ourselves to take the very steps traditionally associated with Teshuva. We:
  • Recognize our actions that have caused others harm
  • Approach the person or people harmed, starting with apology
  • Make great effort to make amends for our actions, either by repairing the harm, if repair is possible, or by undertaking a task to bring benefit to the person and the community
  • Consider the habits of mind, heart, and social structures that have brought us to take these actions
  • Make great effort to address these factors and work on transformation
Restorative Justice is a very old concept found in many cultures and faiths in addition to Judaism, including many Native American and First Nations cultures, Islam, several African communities, as well as Maori legal systems. We are finding Restorative Justice, like the concept of Teshuva, to be a meaningful process for our individual and collective growth and ethical self-transformation.
To our friends observing Yom Kippur, we wish an easy fast and a new year rich with peace, love, joy and gratitude. Shalom.
In Partnership,
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