I have heard from many of you that you found the questions for the first two weeks of Elul meaningful. I’m glad to hear it. For this next week, I want us to focus on the personal and professional relationships in our lives.
Our tradition teaches that on Yom Kippur the sins we have committed against God will be forgiven if we are truly repentant. The sins we commit against others, however, cannot be forgiven unless and until we have asked those whom we have wronged to forgive us. In many ways, this is one of the most difficult aspects of Cheshbon Ha-nefesh – taking an inventory/accounting of our souls. It means that we have to take risks by reaching out to others. We may encounter resistance, anger, or resentment. Sometimes it is impossible to reach out to others – and yet, it is our duty to do all that we can to assess whether or not reconciliation is possible. If there is even the slightest hope then we need to try - even if we fail.
Each of us is involved in many different kinds of relationships – from families and loved ones, to work associates, to acquaintances we see only occasionally. Our tradition teaches that every person with whom we come in contact reminds us of the fact that all humanity is created in the image of God. As such, all of our interactions with others – from the most intimate to the merely mundane – contain the potential for holiness. If we approach them from this perspective, maintaining healthy relationships takes on a sacred dimension.
The following questions are designed to make us think about the current status of the many different relationships in our lives. Again, this is by no means a complete list. Hopefully it will provide you with a starting point for improving the relationships in your lives.
1. Have I taken part in any business or personal transactions this past year that were against my religious, moral or ethical principles?
2. Have I ignored or been impatient with those I love the most?
3. Are there people I have wronged that I need to ask to forgive me?
4. Will I be able to forgive those who come to me to ask for my forgiveness?
5. Have I taken time recently to let the most important people in my life know how much I care about them?
6. Have I done all that I could to repair damaged relationships in my life?
7. How have my actions towards others influenced their opinions of me?
Again, I welcome your comments and suggestions for additional questions and formats that we can use. If answering them causes you to want to speak to one of the Temple clergy, Rabbi Immerman, Cantors Heit and Sacks and I would welcome the opportunity. Note that all of these materials will also be available in hard copy at the Temple Office. If you know of anyone else who might want to receive these mailings – whether or not they are members of the congregation, contact the Temple and we will send them to you.
L’shanah Tovah U’metukah – May you have a good and sweet new year,
Rabbi Joseph R. Black