Posted by: fullandbye | September 16, 2004

Sli’chot

It is Rosh Hashanah right now.
I dined with my father, his wife, and some neighbors yesterday and reflected upon the new year. Yom Kippur is nine days away. In Judaism, the period between the New Year and the Day of Atonement is called “Sli’chot” which translates roughly as “apologies”.
This week always finds me in a strange way. I mean, I can apologize for particular things I have done to people. I can ask forgiveness for specific transgressions. But what if my very nature is offensive to some people? Should we ever apologize or be made to ask forgiveness for being ourselves?
I spoke with my father at length on this issue yesterday, and he offered his usual astute and pointed criticism.
The condensed version:
“Raz, your love of people is your greatest liability when you feel your friends have been wronged in some way. You love your friends to death, but you judge people quickly and oftentimes harshly. Not all bad things that happen can be blamed on malice. Remember that humans are weak more than they are bad. Your equating weakness with malice when it causes your friends pain skews your sense of justice and makes you less wise.”
So far so good. Here was the curveball:
“I know you take some pleasure in your reputation as a bad person to piss off. I also know you have effectively waged social wars against people. It is a common thing to want to be feared, but you must own this impulse and be totally aware of your own reputation and the tendencies that cause it. What does this say about your place in the world? What do you gain by this reputation? Who do you want to be in the upcoming year?”
Whoa Dad. Very Martin Buber.
Who do I want to be? To whom do I owe apologies? At what point does being myself become transgressive?


Responses

  1. My thought is that we are not made up of one self but many potential selves. Our actions are just a combination of the worst and the best of us- and we chose which tendencies we want to express. Of course we’re not always in control of how we’re going to react, in the heat of the moment especially when all is shrouded and perspective is nearly impossible. So just ask forgiveness for that which you feel, upon contemplation, isn’t true to your most ideal self- for those times you may have indulged the negative aspects of your being or neglected the positive.
    And then, be gentle with yourself. Never criticize those who make constant progress, however slow. You’re not finished, Raz. You’re opinionated and strong and wise but not finished.

  2. I know of at least one person you owe an apology to. Your driving a social wedge against them has perpetuated a chain of venomous interactions.

  3. more to this story
    You read through me.
    You bastard.
    Would a visit from me exhaust you?
    What if I promised to make you some Jewish penicillin? (you know what I mean by this).
    Let me know.
    Glad to hear you escaped the torrents. From the photos and soundbytes it seems as though you did a prudent thing.


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