Monday, September 2, 2013

L'Shana Tovah ~ 5774

For Jews worldwide, the penitential season as commenced. This is the time when we are expected to look deep within ourselves for the failures and shortcomings of the last year. This is not meant to be an easy process, nor is it meant to be public fodder; this is supposed to be a highly private experience when one is completely honest with oneself. And trust me when I say it is always painful. 

Admitting one has fallen short of the mark is difficult, but finding the right place in the chain of events, the single questionable choice, the exact moment when something, anything went awry is daunting and, quite frankly, terrifying at the same time. You want to believe you know where it went wrong, but truth is, you usually don't. The errors we make are rarely the result of an isolated action, but are the culmination of life experience that has led us to this moment, this place in time, this instant where we could've done better. It can be as simple as admitting I should not have tried to shlep two garbage bins to the curb on an icy driveway, to as complex as being able to own my own intemperate behavior. It's not easy to admit you're wrong, and it gets harder when the absolute expectation is that amends are made. Admitting to yourself is one thing. Going around to those whom you have wronged in order to make a sincere apology is something else completely.

Owning one's own behavior is not exactly a popular thing to do these days. Our politicians are really good at blaming the nearest member of the opposition. Members of the House of Representatives are such total pros at this that they've managed to stymie virtually any and all governmental activity. You have to admit it's pretty astounding stuff when the people who are supposed to be governing this nation cannot manage to pass sensible gun law. The Congressional Two-Step Shuffle is certainly the dance o'the day in Washington. 

But I digress. It wouldn't exactly kill any of us to take good look inside to see where we can do better. We all need to recognize where personal outreach can happen. Whether it's support art and artists, immigration reform, civil rights, or some other cause that need attention, we all need to find the boundary that can be stretched, the hand that can be held, and the time that can be given. Living within our heads, only between our ear buds, is a sure fire way to isolate ourselves. And it's pretty clear that isolationism is not really the best of all possibilities. Not as a nation, not as a person.

At the traditional Rosh Ha'Shanah table, we have a round challah to symbolize a crown for the head of the new year as well as the cyclical nature of life, honey for a sweet year, and apples. Why apples? No, it's not a Garden of Eden reference (that would probably have been a fig anyway) instead, one midrash that explains it's because the way the fruit is formed. The nub of the fruit appears before the leaves that will protect it as it grows, the way Jews accepted Torah...we said okay even before we knew exactly what was there.

Whatever the reason, it all serves to express the hope for a sweet new year. 

 Shana tova u’meetuka….a happy and sweet new year.

!שנה טובה ומתוקה


  1. "the way Jews accepted Torah...we said okay even before we knew exactly what was there"

    sort of like the Democrats and Obamacare. The difference with ACA is you are required by law to believe or else pay a fine.

  2. I really like the phrase "Living within our heads, only between our ear buds". So true of so many people these days.

  3. L'shana tovah... a bit late perhaps. I've read your comments in the NYT for a long time now (years?), and this is my first trip to your blog. Not sure why it's taken me so long. Anyway, please keep writing. It's a worthy read. (I recently quoted your commentary to Gail Collins' most recent column on my facebook page... with full attribution, of course.)

    1. Thank you! You are very kind. I love knowing that someone in cyber space is reading my stuff! Please feel free to visit often, comment often. (I also post all manner of comments and assorted stuff on the WP feel free to wander over there as well.)

      L'shana tova to you, Michael, and chag same'ach!