I woke up today with that sinking feeling: I remembered that day when I was living in Skokie and attending junior high school. Those were some of the happiest days of my life. I had left Solomon Schechter, a conservative Jewish day school, a year before, and had returned to the public school system where I felt so much more comfortable.

I’d befriended a very pretty girl whom a lot of the other guys made fun of ceaselessly. “Were they interested in her?”–I wondered. “Were they making fun of her because they wanted her attention?” Yes, those were those careless summer days when I had no idea who I really was. I didn’t know almost anything about my roots or culture. I felt most comfortable in the presence of either secular Jews or non-Jews.

I felt something for that girl that I hadn’t felt before. She was so kind and giving; she didn’t have a mean bone in her body, it seemed like…and she was pretty.

We ended up speaking at length at a party that was held at the end of the school year. I wrote her a lengthy note, neatly folded it up, placed it in a small box, and gave it to one of her close friends so that she’d hand it over to her. I felt I’d done a good job and that this was the beginning of something special.

And the girl ended up interested in me as well. We both attended Niles West, where I slowly gave into a strong depression. I’d spend days sleeping or locked up in my room without talking to anyone besides my parents and closest friends. It was a very difficult time for me and all those involved. The girl, in the meantime, was getting the top grades, making new friends, and having a blast of her high school experience. As for me, I had bigger problems to take of. I ended up completely ignoring her and she noticed this.

As time went by, we began going our separate ways. As my depression resided, I began getting carried away by a new passion: Israeli politics. I invested my time and energy in spreading pro-Israel propaganda, attending meetings with Kach supporters, etc. I joined the ranks of the JDL. Not because I knew about or agreed with what they were doing, but because I liked the violence. That girl became a distant memory at the back of my mind; a place I didn’t dare venture.

One day, I remembered her and my heart started beating a little faster. I remembered the days I’d spent talking to her and my brain slowly lost focus. I lost the hatred I felt towards the Arabs had one thing in mind at that point: how to seek out and find that girl. And I did. Only by then, she was the one who had “other things” on her mind. She was trying to get into the university of her choice; making plans for the future.

“Who was I to mess with her ambitions and where had I suddenly appeared from?”–I’m sure she was thinking reading my latest email.

So she told me she just didn’t have the time or something of that matter and as you can imagine, I took it very personally. I was all of 18; angry and bitter with life. I felt she deserved a harsh punishment for such brutish behavior. I’d let her have it. And so, I lashed out at her with one of those angry, bitter emails I’ve become known for every since.

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We’re approaching Rosh Chodesh Elul. Elul is a month of introspection. It’s not quite Yom Kippur yet, but it’s a time to begin taking stock of the things we’ve done wrong and what we’d like to improve on the following year.

I know myself: I know that I’ve insulted many, many people without much of a reason–if any. I know this may be a cowardly way of doing it: after all, who knows if these will be the people reading this post or just some random FB/Twitter occupants? I also know that this may be the only thing I can do at this point because the opportunity to apologize has been lost forever.

To those I’ve hurt with deeds or with words: If you could see me now, you’d know I feel badly about the things I’ve done. I acknowledge that I’m human and prone to doing bad things that I’ll later regret. But I’d like to believe I’ve learned from my mistakes. Let’s make this Elul a time for forward progress; not so much for “feeling bad” about the negative things we’ve done but about tshuva: not repeating our mistakes.

An early tikatevu ve’tichatemu le’shana tova u’metuka to all my friends, family and all those I’ve hurt over the years. May this be a year of ahavat henam: loving our fellow Jews just simply because…