The High Holidays are nigh upon us. The Hebrew month of Elul arrived six days ago bringing along the much heralded trumpet blasts of the shofar. The slumbering begin to awaken and we delight in the twenty-seventh psalm.
It’s a time when, dare I say, almost every Jew, irrespective of his level of Jewish education, ritual observance and congregational affiliation, takes stock of his life. Weighing his failures against his achievements, he finds the latter wanting. Bitter feelings of covetousness mislead him to what too many Jews have always done but have no business doing, … judging our fellow unfavorably in our hearts.
Mind you, I am not referring to institutions of justice in which the practice of men and women judging their fellow-whether within a civil or criminal framework, happens everyday. That is the business of a court system governed by law rather than men for which Judaism had an early appreciation, as recorded in The Torah, (parashat Noach).
The judgments to which I refer are those which never reach anyone’s ears. They come in a variety of emotional colorations. We render them in silence because of our shame, the shame in knowing we failed to acknowledge our neighbor's honest achievements, preferring the taste of "sour grapes" to the sweetness of making “shalom” with him whom we wronged.
There is also "shame" in not giving the "benefit of the doubt" to another human being who was long overdue for a bit of good "Mazel" (basically, a variant of a Yiddish proverb: "Good Mazel" is too busy to stop by and "bad Mazel" refuses to leave.")
Our sages teach that one cannot refine his relationship with G-d until after mending his many broken fences below. By making "shalom" with your neighbor, you take the first step down a path strewn with opportunities, starting with the High Holidays, the divinely-assisted process of refashioning yourself.
Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik said it like this: “Jews sin when we do not sense the presence of G-d.”
Try as we might, we can "comprehend" the Creator only by speaking the language of "anthropomorphism”-the attribution of human qualites to a divine being”-a frank admission that if we cannot understand the work of His creation, how then can we understand Him?
And in the privacy of our silence, despite our own awareness that we do know better, we conveniently relocate that awareness to the corner of our brain reserved for inconvenient truths.
That I covet what another man has acquired-not by chicanery but fairly through his hard work and devotion-is wrong; that I judge another man at all is wrong notwithstanding the severity of my judgment.
That by the end of Yom Kippur I wish to be able to say with the same straightforward honesty of my son Zac whose twenty-seventh birthday was today, September 1: "Dad, there aren't many things in which I believe, but I do believe in kindness."