Tshuvah- Judging and not judging? High Holiday Reflections

Received this note from the son today:

אתה יוכל לדבר היום? אני חושב יש לנו תוכניות לטייל לירושלים בהפסקה.

Which in addition to saying he’s going to Jerusalem for the upcoming Sukkot holiday, denotes progress in Hebrew sentence construction. His goal after being there a month so flawlessly communicate with my cousin’s 5 year old. He was hoping to communicate with the 2 year old by the middle of August. That didn’t happen, not because of Nate’s Hebew mind you, more because 2 year old don’t articulate well. “It’s hard to understand what he’s saying”. I don’t think this difficulty is exclusive to English speakers, In my experience 2 year olds don’t really have a native language yet. Still up for grabs as they say.

So the lad is going to Jerusalem for the holiday? He’ll see lots of interesting observances, that’s for sure. I’ve asked him to get himself a nice kippah to wear when he’s there, feels like the right thing to do.

This was a slow weekend around the Casa. After the Rosh Hashanah holiday we kind rolled into the Shabbat observances, the sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Tshuvah, tshuvah means “return” but return to what? An easy answer would be a return to some kind of path of righteousness, but what does that mean? Does it mean being more observant? Maybe keeping kosher and davening everyday? That doesn’t work for me, to easy on one hand and way too hard on the other.

Confused? Let me explain my thoughts, it’s pretty easy to declare that one is going to start being an observant Jew. Much like declaring that I’m on a diet or a embracing a new active lifestyle, one thing to say it, another to do it. In the case of becoming more observant all of a sudden, it’s probably might even be easier than a diet, the rules are quite clear after thousands of years of interpretation and clarification, there good defined boundaries. That’s the easy part, following rules.

I’ve found the being observant and not being judging in my execution of that lifestyle is almost impossible, especially when I’m around family members.  The problem is, at least in my experience, that sort of behavior quickly devolves into a personal discussion of good and bad, and when that good and bad thing gets going not exactly a good incubator for peace and harmony.

It simply doesn’t matter that a look, a offhanded statement, someone’s feelings are going get hurt over something stupid. That, in my mind, defeats the idea that I’m doing the right thing, and goes against what I believe to be the point religious observance, improving relationships between people.

Return for me is about returning to the work of improving; myself, things around me, interactions with people I care about.

This isn’t work that I’ll ever finish mind you, and as it says in the Talmud we aren’t tasked with finishing the work, we are not excused from working on it.

My thoughts on tshuvah – return to my ongoing efforts to keep working on the things that really matter with the caveat that this year, I’ll work smarter, not harder.

1 Comment

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One response to “Tshuvah- Judging and not judging? High Holiday Reflections

  1. Ken in Northfield

    Wisdom of the ages. Thanks.

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