Rosh Hashanah: A Time To Build Relationships
By ALAN D. GOODMAN
As Rosh Hashanah and the
days of awe approach, our tradition
teaches this is a time for reflection
and self evaluation.
In our formal prayers, we read
statements acknowledging we have
transgressed in one way or another
over the past year. These
transgressions could have been
related to ourselves or others, both
close family members or the
community at large. With the act of
acknowledging our transgressions,
we believe we will be forgiven both
by those against whom we have
transgressed and by the Almighty.
By turning over a new page in our
own personal book of life, we try to
make those changes which we see
as important for ourselves in the
This example of a book
provides a tool to help us
understand a complex life process.
Implicit is the acknowledgement that
by our very natures, we are prone to
mistakes, poor judgment,
temptation, jealousy, greed, etc. and
despite our actions, we are often
given many chances to start again.
From the perception of the writer of
the book (ourselves), every new
page represents a creative
opportunity. From the perception of
the readers of the book (those with
whom we relate), the previous
pages must be read in order to
reach the most recent one. It would
be naive to think the reader's
perceptions would not be colored by
these prior pages, thereby
influencing the manner in which the
most recent chapter is understood.
So, too, in relationships, the
opportunities to evaluate our roles
and behavior are ever present.
Ideally, through open dialogue and
discussion, we can learn how to
better fulfill one another's needs
and strive toward deeper
communication and understanding.
Simply acknowledging privately that
we have transgressed is only the
first step in the process of
reconciliation and healing. Equally
important is the need to
communicate with others and to
discuss what traits we would like to
discard and what changes we would
like to make in ourselves. This
requires serious and often painful
discussions which can open lines of
communication which have become
blocked through disuse or misuse.
To be effective, this must become a
process that cannot be done only
once a year.
Now may be a good time to
Are we ever able to wipe the
slate clean in relationships? The
book we have written about our
lives is with us and those who are
close to us have read many of the
earlier chapters. Sometimes this
helps to strengthen and deepend
the relationship. At other times, the
memory of what occurred in the
past becomes an emotional barrier
that cannot be overcome without
The high divorce rate is
indication we have not found a way
to successfully overcome the
barriers to open communication and
to reconciliation between partners.
To be effective, those suffering from
the malady need to be sufficiently
motivated to try the cure in the first
place. Furthermore, the "cure" is
not an instantaneous result or even
a foregone conclusion, but an
opportunity to gain insight and
begin on the path to self discovery.
Those who will not seek
professional help in a timely
manner, or at all, are not willing to
make the investment required to
help heal an ailing relationship. This
is one of the most important
investments you could ever make.
It would be wrong to assume all
relationships should be saved and
reconciliation is always the best
solution. Sometimes, relationships
are not amenable to change and
can lead to emotional breakdown,
dysfunction or even physical harm
or death. Relationships which place
spouses and children at risk may
never be productive or healthy,
despite the amount of therapy
For example, when physical,
emotional or sexual abuse occur,
breaking the cycle of abuse by
terminating the relationship may be
the only solution. This is not to say
that effective treatment cannot be
provided in these situations, but
rather that too often, family and
community pressures work toward
keeping families together where the
results can be disastrous from short
and long-term perspectives.
So as we prepare for Rosh
Hashanah, we should pause from
our daily lives and ask ourselves
the question. Am I going to make
an investment in myself and in my
personal and family relationships? If
the answer is "yes," then you have
an immediate opportunity to take
the first step towards making this
happen. Begin the process of
reconciliaiton within yourself and by
so doing, you will pave the way
toward reconciliation with others.
Mr. Goodman is executive director
of Jewish Family Services.
Apples and Honey
It's hard to say "I'm sorry,"
Although I'm feeling sorry.
The "s" always sticks in my throat.
And "I made a big mistake"
Would produce a bellyache
That might last till
I was old enough to vote.
"Please forgive me"
sounds real good.
and I'd say it if I could,
But between the "forgive"
and the "please"
I would have to go to bed
With a pounding in my head
And a very shaky feeling
in my knees.
"I was wrong" seems oh so right.
But it gives me such a fright
That my "was" always
turns into "ain't."
So I hope you'll take this rhyme
As my way of saying "I'm
Really sorry." Now excuse me
while I faint.
Reprinted from If I Were in Charge
of the World and Other Worries by
Judith Viorst. Anthneueum 1981.
FOR A SWEET NEW YEAR!
DIRECTIONS: Start at the star, move clockwise around the
circle skipping two letters each time and
write the third letter down. Continue until you
find the sweet tastes of Rosh Hashanah.
Puzzle by Judy Loebl
ANSWERS ON PAGE L-8
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS