Do Good

Tonight we begin the holiday of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It’s a time when we reflect on the past year, think about our transgressions, and make a commitment to “do better” in the year ahead. During the past ten days of reflection, I have thought about many things. How can I be a better person? A better Jewish communal professional? What more can I do as a husband and father? And, most importantly, who have I hurt during the past year and from whom do I need to seek t’shuvah (repentance)?

I remember as a child listening to my rabbi share the multiple stages of t’shuvah and thinking about how it related to my sister and me (see gratuitous comments in italics) since we were constantly at odds:

  1. Sinner recognizes his/her wrongs (two wrongs don’t make a right, but the second wrong sure made me feel a lot better)

  2. Feel sincere remorse  (sincere may have been a stretch)

  3. Do everything to undo any damage by asking that person for his/her forgiveness (I am unsure if we ever really forgave each other)

  4. The final stage of t’shuvah is resolving to never commit such a sin again (that lasted about 5 minutes)

According to Jewish tradition, by the third apology, the person who was wronged is required to grant forgiveness if the offender is sincerely remorseful and is taking steps to prevent similar wrongs from happening again (Hmmm…I guess my sister and I never really forgave each other as children.)

Understanding this is a time for deep personal introspection, I have also spent much of this week, mainly due to the calendar and world events, reflecting on a wide range of outside topics:

On Monday, Rabbi Abby Cohen, Director of Spiritual Life for Cedar Sinai Park, placed a mezuzah on the doorpost of the new Kehillah Housing building on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway (on land donated by Cedar Sinai Park in front of the Robison Home). By affixing the mezuzah, this new community building was formally turned into a home – a home that will meet the needs of 14 adults with developmental disabilities. Most of these adults have remained in their parents’ homes and now have the incredible opportunity to live independently. Think of the benefit to both the individual and the families who have given so much time, effort and love to their child/ren. The project was developed as a result of an ongoing conversation between Cedar Sinai Park and Jewish Family and Child Service about the needs of this component of Jewish Portland. This is an incredible addition to our community. Mazel tov to the new residents as they begin to move in next week.

Tuesday would have been my mother’s 71st birthday – she passed away almost six years ago far too young. I thought about what she would think about me, my family, and the delight she would have in her grandchildren. At the same time, understanding that my father passed away earlier this year, I was wondering just how the two of them were celebrating her birthday together for the first time since her passing. 

Wednesday was the 12th anniversary of the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks on our country. While some people in Oregon were waking to the news of the tragedies, I was watching it live on television while in Baltimore. It is hard to understand the magnitude of the day, even now, and the lasting impact it has had on our country. Ever watch an old episode of Law and Order – often times you will see the Twin Towers – I get goose bumps remembering that they were brought to the ground.

And, this week our country debated the challenging situation in Syria and the possibility of a response from the United States. I listened carefully to President Obama’s speech as he shared his rationale and thinking. I recognize there is no easy answer – and some would argue no right answer. But take the turmoil in the region today and go back forty years to the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Now, classified documents are being released about then Prime Minister Golda Meir’s difficult decisions prior to the war and the impact the surprise attack had on Israel. Unfortunately, the Middle East seems as chaotic today as it did then (in a different way), but we must be proud of a strong Israel.

Finally, I continue to spend a great deal of time thinking about our Jewish community. What can we do to make 5774 an even better year for the Jewish people – both locally and around the world? How can Federation do more for Jewish Portland? How do we engage more people in Jewish activities and experiences? Could a new structure and new way of business bring greater results? And how do we measure the impact of our efforts and our community’s financial resources?

At this time of year we seek forgiveness. One way to avoid this in the future is by following the old saying, “You can never do wrong by doing right.” May we all “do right” in our personal, professional and communal lives this year and beyond.

G’mar chatima tova (which literally means a good final sealing) – may you be inscribed in the Book of Life. And have an easy and meaningful fast.

Shabbat shalom.



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