My wife and I broke up several times before we got married. The last break up should have been the final one. She broke up with me, not for anybody else, but for herself, which is the absolute hardest kind of break up to deal with. It’s easier when someone comes in and takes over for you. At least you have someone to hate.
During the period of disengagement, I’d call her answering machine occasionally. I thought that I might get some sense of her mindset by listening to her voice. Of course, the message rarely changed and the subtle variations that I clung to lived only in my head. I was just about to get on with my life when, out of the blue, she called and wanted to talk. Cue wedding bells.
I drove around yesterday listening to Dennis Prager bully and twist and outright lie, as always. Liberal this, democrat that, flip-flop flip-flop. He came out with a good one –
Believe me, folks, it hurts me to talk badly about people. I want to believe that everyone is good. I want to respect my opponents…BUT I CAN’T! You can’t respect these people. They are only concerned with falsehood. They are only concerned with telling everyone how BAD the United States of America is! I wish more than anything that I believed they had the nation’s interest at heart, but they don’t. They just don’t. They are unworthy of respect. And it hurts me.
Driving back from the library, the plastic Karl Marx head on my dashboard happily bobbing away next to the bobblehead Osama, he began to go on and on about how Yom Kippur was starting at sunset. Yom Kippur, for those who don’t know, is the Jewish Day of Atonement. For twenty-four hours, the following are not permitted
Eat or drink
Bathe or wash
Wear leather shoes, leather sandals or any other leather footgear
Have marital relations
Jews are also required to ask the forgiveness of those who they have committed sins against.
When you commit a sin that hurts another human being, you have sinned against both Hashem and that person. It is then necessary to add a step to the repentance process. You must regret the sin, resolve never to do it again, ask that person for forgiveness, and on Yom Kippur you must confess the sin and ask Hashem for forgiveness.
It is therefore customary to ask people before Yom Kippur to forgive you for anything you may have done to hurt them. If you make an honest attempt to ask the person for forgiveness, and he refuses to forgive you, you must try at least two more times. You have to wait a few days in-between requests, and they must be in three different places, in hopes that the person will cool off and change his mind. If he still refuses to forgive you, you have at least done your part, and Hashem takes that into account.
Normally, this kind of whiplash morality doesn’t bother me, but for some reason, my blood pressure shot through the roof. Now in the name of G-d does he reconcile the obvious and deliberate harm he inflicts on a daily basis and continue to see himself as a pious Jew?
Christians don’t really have this kind of all or nothing forgiveness thing. We’re kind of expected to do it on a daily basis and, oddly, that makes it easier to forget about. Once you stop doing something, it’s easier to not do. But once a year, Jews are expected to take deep and accurate stock of their lives, identify their deficiencies and take action. I’d think that, if done properly, the majority of us would have nervous breakdowns or panic attacks. Or maybe I’m projecting.
Still, as I made my way home and Dennis kept prattling on about the honor of assisting during services in “one of the biggest temples in Miami Beach” I wondered exactly what he’d identify as harm to another human being.
I sent him an email with some suggestions when I got home.
During Yom Kippur, meditate on this –
You could be a force for good in the world. You could expose the lies and treachery of both parties in the US. You could be the radio equivalent of www.spinsanity.com, taking no sides and actively pushing for true American justice.
Instead, you turn a blind eye to the crimes of one party to focus on the other. You blame one side for the same acts that the other side is also guilty of. When you sense an argument isn’t going your way, you change the topic and claim victory. You fall so deep into your own rhetoric that you lose sight of what truth is or means.
This does not make you a good person and this does not make you a moral person. When you meet God, will you truly look him in the eye and tell him that you did His work? Can you say to God today that the words that you use daily are for God’s glory?
Think for a moment about what you said today – “I would like to respect my opponents, but I just can’t”. If you wanted to respect them, you would. You would ask God for the grace and power to see them as human beings that use the same tactics as you to advance their beliefs.
Pray for atonement.
Half an hour later, it was time to pick my daughter up at school. Dennis’ voice crackled on as the car started up. And, as with my wife’s voice on her answering machine, I strained to interpret the inflections of his voice. And, of course, I could hear the difference. He seemed a little more sedate than he had earlier in the day. Perhaps he was just tired, I thought. Sitting outside the school, a union member called to complain about some anti-union statements. (If I recall, he’d said that once upon a time, the unions were the strongly anti-Communist and pro-USA, as opposed to acting selfishly as they do today by supporting Democrats. He forgot to mention that unions mostly sprung from Communist ideals.)
As he tried to weasel out of his statements, though he added
Look, my problems with the unions are the same problems that I have with Big Business. Both of them need to keep the health of the country in mind. Big Business is just as bad as unions. I just want to make that clear.
Maybe he had read the email.