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September 02, 2010 - Image 78

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2010-09-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I


Spirituality

RABBINIC MESSAGES

There's No Such Thing As 'Should've'

R

osh Hashanah brings together
some of my favorite things:
apples and honey, round challah
with raisins, the call of the shofar, the joy
of family gathered around the table and
the idea that as we celebrate this holiday,
we have returned to the beginning [of
the year]; and it is a time to start all over
again.
That idea of beginning again is some-
what confusing. It's not like we can simply
wipe the slate clean and pretend the past
never happened; and yet, we can't dwell on
the past either. This time of year encour-
ages us to move forward; to seek forgive-
ness from those whom we have wronged
and to engage in the process of teshuva
— of repentance. When we have made
teshuva, then the slate is clean and we can
start fresh.
Of the many names given to Rosh
Hashanah, Yom HaDin, the Day of

Judgment, resonates most
self say, or hear people say, "I
strongly with me. Especially
should have ..." "I should've
vivid is the image of God's Book
had a V8"; "I should've called
of Life that God opens to reveal
my mom"; "I should've taken
the fate of every human being.
that job:' The thing is, you can't
It is both heartening and fright-
"should've:'
ening If we could only look into
When we make decisions, we
the Book of Life — wouldn't we
can only make them based on
expect to see our names written
the information that we have at
there? But what if a name were
that time. We try to make the
Rabb i Marla
missing?
best ones possible. When later we
Hor nsten
This metaphor causes me
look back on that choice, we can't
Tempt
e Israel
to consider my choices care-
second guess; we can't regret,
fully, to ensure that my name
we can't "should've' Instead, we
is written there. To that end, I
can be satisfied knowing that we
have embraced the "you can't should've"
made the best decision with the information
philosophy. It is not an original idea, nor
that we had at hand. If it turns out not to
is it mine (I actually learned it from my
have been the right choice, that's okay, too.
husband); but it is one that can change us
Next time, we'll have more data, more experi-
for the better and help us begin again at
ence; and it will help us when we have a new
this time of year.
choice to make in the future.
How many times a day do you your-
The "can't should've philosophy" gives

me comfort. It reminds me that I have done
the best possible; and it teaches me to be
content with the choices that I have made.
It further encourages me to learn from
my mistakes, as we are taught through
the process of teshuva. After all, it was
Maimonides who taught that true teshuva
means that if we find ourselves in the same
situation again, and choose to behave dif-
ferently (because of our repentance and
newfound experience), then we have made
teshuva. It's exactly the "can't should've"
where we learn from the past in order to
make better choices for the future.
As we approach this New Year of 5771,
this Yom HaDin, let us learn to make choic-
es without regret, to learn from our mis-
takes, so we can continually look forward
with contentment hope and peace. ❑

Rabbi Hornsten is a rabbi at Temple Israel

in West Bloomfield.

Sarah's Lesson Of Destiny

I

n the Torah reading of the first day of
Rosh Hashanah, we read as follows: Our
Matriarch Sarah observes that Ishmael,
Abraham's older son, is behaving inappro-
priately. Convinced that Ishmael is a bad
influence on her son Isaac, she demands that
Abraham evict him from their home — a
controversial response that seems unduly
severe and insensitive.
Initially, Abraham resists. But then God
tells him "whatever Sarah tells you, hearken
to her voice:' We can safely assume that
Abraham's contemporaries were outraged at
this behavior. But Sarah was convinced that
the destiny of the Jewish people was at stake;
and therefore, she would not be swayed by

the opinions of others. And God
personal sensitivity, most Jews
validated her approach.
and Jewish organizations did
One of the most publicized
not condemn — or even express
weddings this year was the
disappointment about — the
marriage of Chelsea Clinton
intermarriage. But Sarah's mes-
and Mark Mezvinsky. To Mark's
sage is that we must not be afraid
credit, he proudly proclaimed
to speak out and to take decisive
his Judaism by wearing a tallit
action.
and kippah through the cer-
We must recognize the
emony. However, the sad fact is
destructive nature of marrying
Rabbi
that by marrying a non-Jewish
out. Most of us have friends and
Elimelech
woman, he violated an essential
relatives who are intermarried
Silberberg
of Judaism; and any children that
and find it awkward to express
Bais Chabad
he has with Chelsea will not be
ourselves openly about the issue.
Jewish.
But study after study demon-
Understandably, because of political and
strates that intermarriages destroy the basic

fabric of Judaism. Most children of interfaith
couples do not maintain a significant con-
nection to Judaism — and let's not even talk
about the grandchildren!
The only real antidote to intermarriage
is a Torah day-school education, which
grounds and immerses children in Judaism
so completely that marrying out of the faith
becomes unthinkable. Rosh Hashanah is the
time to become an ambassador of Judaism
and encourage our fellow Jews to send their
children to Torah-based day schools.

Rabbi Silberberg is rabbi at the Sara & Morris

Tugman Bais Chabad Torah Center of West

Bloomfield.

Creating A Home Of Our Own

S

everal years ago, I was sitting with
my brother at the Stage Deli in
West Bloomfield. The waiter came
up to the table and asked us, "What do you
want?" Without missing a beat, my brother
answered, "I want inner peace' He wasn't
trying to be rude. He was just answering
the question.
As we gather for the Jewish New Year,
there is nothing we want more than
inner peace. We want to feel comfortable
in the world. We don't want to feel so
much pain. In the Torah, there is no one
who embodies this sentiment more than
Eve after her expulsion from the Garden
of Eden.
Imagine Eve after she realized what

78

September 2 • 2010

mi

happened to her — that
through it we dialogue with our
she had been expelled from
ancestors on what it is like to
Paradise forever. Imagine the
have so many experiences of
moment she realized that she,
exile and why so many of our
like us, must now endure pain
needs, from the time we are an
and even humiliation. Looking
infant to the time we die, go
around at her new digs, the
unmet.
swamps, the mosquitoes (I
We want the same thing our
assume she was in the Middle
ancestors wanted. We want to
East?), she must have been
be able to say: I have found
overwhelmed by a profound
the courage to live my life. I
Rabbi Tamara
sense of loss, confusion and
have discovered a path to my
Ko Iton
anger. After she gained her
own sense of well-being. On
Birmi ngham
bearings, she called out in
balance,
my life has encom-
Te mple
despair, "How do you expect me
passed more joy than pain.
to live out here?"
I have learned how to make a home in
In its core, Eve's story is valuable because
this world.

At the Birmingham Temple during the
High Holidays, we are asking: "If we, like
Eve, must live in a world where there are
oil spills, floods, violence and illness,
if loss can not be avoided, how can we
make a home in the world? How can we
make peace with our lives? How can we
create a garden of our own?"
Suffering is part of the human experi-
ence, an unavoidable part of being alive.
Our birthright is serenity, not suffering.
Well-being cannot be ordered up like a
corned beef sandwich at the deli. But it
can be developed over a lifetime.

Rabbi Kolton is rabbi at the Birmingham

Temple in Farmington Hills.

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