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View Diary: D'var Torah: Yom Kippur (70 comments)

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  •  "guilt" is a problematic word in 'collective' (6+ / 0-)

    or individual sense you discussed.  the discussion was excellent, but the word has always seemed odd to me, much like "Judeo-Christian" culture/ethics/values - popular jewish authors notwithstanding.  Guilt seems largely an after-the-fact phenomenon for which alleviation and avoidance are sought, rather than "responsibility" and accountability as the ground rules that hopefully shape our choices and decisions and actions in advance.  'tho possibly this is one of those not-quite-translateable issues.  equally possibly, the way forgiveness in the present era has an unfortunate tendency at times to give a wrong-doer the belief that the wrongness has been erased and the wrong-doer is "off the hook" for responsibility to make repair, and off the hook to be self-examining and amend harmful outlooks and actions, i wonder if this is also a not-quite-translateable concept.  after being for too many decades constantly forgiving of others who chose harmful actions, i reached a realization that being injudiciously forgiving is a good intention that relieves the forgiver of complicity in the actions of the forgiven wrongdoer, AND it gives wrongdoers all the latitude they need to pave a hellroad to send others down.  this isn't abstract in my life, it's one of the sequelae of enduring permanent extensive damage at the hands of just a few close relatives and just a few too-trusted too forgiven others, and being helpless to protect or ally with other of their victims either.

    an insoluable conflict i revisit at yom kippur and often across the year, with yartzeits and other reminding dates, always wondering, "what could i have done differently?"  and "what could WE (the others persons in these sad scenarios) have done differently" that might have had a better chance at... actually ... not just averting so much damage & suffering but also saving those individuals from doing so much harm and becoming such harmful people who went to extremes justifying their bad actions and then escalated for all the reasons that human beings do that kind of justification and escalation, cutting off their only path back to decency because at a certain point they had simply gone too far.  i look at the reconciliations of south africa and am in awe that they can do that.  being still in considerable danger myself, i can't without endangering myself further.  i'm certain that self-endangerment is not meant in yom kippur voicings, but i haven't found enough material about this to make these jagged pieces fit.

    so i guess i just keep trying.

    toda rabah for the thoughtful and thought-provoking essay.

    gmar chatima tova to all.

    •  teshuvah (7+ / 0-)

      Or making amends to another person, isn't only an acknowledgment of guilt (admitting to selfish, dishonest, or self-seeking behavior and apologizing) but includes an offer to make amends - asking what the other person needs to make things right between you (and then doing it). In my opinion, guilt often obscures the problem.

      •  Guilt in the sense of "guilty feelings", yes (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TiaRachel, ramara, Navy Vet Terp

        as opposed to in the sense of "awareness of one's own wrongdoing."

        •  awareness is of limited value (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TiaRachel, ramara, Navy Vet Terp

          It's better than not being aware (people who are not introspective may never change) but is no guarantee of success. It is not a tool kit, doesn't provide a methodology, doesn't explain the nature or source of the problem. It's a beginning, not an answer, in that if you don't know what the problem is, you're never going to be able to fix it. Self-reflection isn't always the best source of information about the nature of the problem, but even if it is, doesn't provide a set of tools for addressing the problem. Thinking about mistakes doesn't produce results.

          •  Very true. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ramara, TiaRachel

            Awareness of the problem is a necessary but not sufficient condition for change.

            And yes, self-reflection is not always the best way to achieve awareness.

            •  If anything (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              TiaRachel

              self-awareness can get in the way of putting oneself in the other person's shoes, which I think is necessary for true repentance and atonement.

              Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

              by ramara on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 01:18:06 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Do you think so? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ramara

                I would only consider that a danger if one has inflated self-awareness to the point of self-absorption.  Which, okay, that is a thing that happens.

                •  That's why (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Batya the Toon

                  I used the word can. I think self-awareness is necessary to relationships, including with God, but that the rabbis were right to require asking forgiveness from persons you have wronged in some way. Our actions don't just affect our souls or ourselves, they affect other people. That is what we must become aware of as well.

                  Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

                  by ramara on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 02:59:54 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Absolutely. I hadn't made that connection (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ramara

                    and it's a very important one.

                    I'm thinking of a fictional character who at one point talks about how grateful he is that God has forgiven him and taken away his guilt ... and it's kind of a horrible moment because he hasn't even admitted his guilt to the countless people he's wronged, let alone asked for their forgiveness.

    •  I went to a Lunch and Learn (7+ / 0-)

      yesterday, and learned that one reason we claim community responsibility for all the sins in whatever version of the Al Cheit, is so that we are all responsible for each other, and one person's sin affects everyone. On the other hand, this also avoids shaming anyone in the community.

      Our topic was how only those who are not perfect can come closer to God by channeling the evil urges we all have into doing good. A person who is never tempted never has to make a moral choice.

      Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

      by ramara on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 12:33:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I strongly suggest (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TiaRachel, Navy Vet Terp

      reading David Harris-Gershon's book "What do you buy the children of the terrorist who tried to kill your wife." Those of you who know David's writings here (also as The Troubadour) will know something of his story. I wrote a review for Amazon.

      With everything else that the book is, it is a remarkable story of trauma, healing, and teshuva.

      Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

      by ramara on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 01:15:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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