2017-09-27 / Religion Column

We should also recognize what we did right

RABBI BENJAMIN DAVID
Adath Emanu- El

We are in the season of apologies. Over the High Holy Days we are encouraged to make a litany of apologies, righting the wrongs we committed over the past year. We apologize to friends and family we may have hurt, either knowingly or unknowingly. And during the holidays themselves we turn our gaze upward and consider how we might have done better in the eyes of God.

But before we get to Yom Kippur itself, I wanted to say a word on the things I will not be apologizing for this year. As much as we can reflect on our mistakes, we can also think deeply about all that we did right.

So here goes…

I will not apologize for loving Israel. Even if Israel can be so very complicated and challenging, I will not apologize for reading about, studying up on, speaking about, and traveling regularly to Israel.

I will not apologize for rejecting outright all forms of misogyny, homophobia, sexism, Islamophobia, and racism.

I will not apologize for omitting the word “tolerance” from my communications. “Tolerance” assumes a half-hearted willingness to put up with something. I actively choose to embrace any and all who are ready to be partners in building a world of empathy and understanding.

I will not apologize for practicing a Judaism that wrestles with tradition, just as the rabbis of the Talmud did not shy away from asking the hardest questions of Jewish tradition. “Why” is always an appropriate question.

I will not apologize for having the Torah dictate my understanding of morality, where the preeminent mitzvot are to love our neighbor as ourselves, live a life of virtue, and always grow in relationship with God.

I will not apologize for urging our synagogue communities to be a place of deep compassion, where children are loved who they are, and all that they bring to this world.

I will not apologize for prioritizing Shabbat and seeing it as a time for families to connect with each other, their community, and Torah.

I will not apologize for being a “modern day rabbi” who balances the traditional aspects of the rabbinate (visiting congregants, teaching classes, delivering sermons, officiating at life cycle events) with the contemporary elements of rabbinic life (interfaith work, social justice work, delivering Torah through such “newer” modes as social media and email).

I will not apologize for growing and changing as a Jew and allowing my views to grow with time.

I will not apologize for forcing myself out of my comfort zone as frequently as possible.

I will not apologize for seeing the Bar and Bat Mitzvah as a rite of passage that has the power to transform our children into independent, virtuous young adults.

I will not apologize for relentlessly encouraging our teens to be active in synagogue life, particularly in a world where stress and anxiety are real, and the synagogue provides endless reassurance and perspective.

I will not apologize for choosing forgiveness.

I will not apologize for choosing hope.

I will not apologize for choosing love.

Here’s to a good, sweet New Year, a year of health and happiness for all. Amen. 

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