The Opposite Of Loneliness – Inspiring Words of Gratitude By Marina Keegan

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This post was also shared on ISH’s Blog. 

Today, we turn our 30 Days Of Gratitude blog over to the late Marina Keegan, who died in a car accident soon after graduating from Yale in 2012. Her words, which we share below, were written for a special edition of The Yale Daily News which was handed out at her graduation. As a new school year starts and many of us send our kids off to college, as some of us prepare to gather together to welcome the new Jewish year, Marina’s words remain extremely powerful. They celebrate the “abundance of people who are in this together” and our ability and obligation to start over. We need to do the same.

“The Opposite of Loneliness,” Marina Keegan

(published in the The Yale Daily News – May 27, 2012)

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.

Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers — partner-less, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group-texts.

This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse – I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.

But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They’re part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn’t live in New York. I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clichéd “should haves…” “if I’d…” “wish I’d…”

Of course, there are things we wished we did: our readings, that boy across the hall. We’re our own hardest critics and it’s easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I’ve looked back on my High School self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.

But the thing is, we’re all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes…) We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay.

We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.

When we came to Yale, there was this sense of possibility. This immense and indefinable potential energy – and it’s easy to feel like that’s slipped away. We never had to choose and suddenly we’ve had to. Some of us have focused ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it; already going to med school, working at the perfect NGO, doing research. To you I say both congratulations and you suck.

For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken it. If only I had majored in biology…if only I’d gotten involved in journalism as a freshman…if only I’d thought to apply for this or for that…

What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.

In the heart of a winter Friday night my freshman year, I was dazed and confused when I got a call from my friends to meet them at EST EST EST. Dazedly and confusedly, I began trudging to SSS, probably the point on campus farthest away. Remarkably, it wasn’t until I arrived at the door that I questioned how and why exactly my friends were partying in Yale’s administrative building. Of course, they weren’t. But it was cold and my ID somehow worked so I went inside SSS to pull out my phone. It was quiet, the old wood creaking and the snow barely visible outside the stained glass. And I sat down. And I looked up. At this giant room I was in. At this place where thousands of people had sat before me. And alone, at night, in the middle of a New Haven storm, I felt so remarkably, unbelievably safe.

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I’d say that’s how I feel at Yale. How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don’t have to lose that.

We’re in this together, 2012. Let’s make something happen to this world.

Standing Before The Three-Way Mirror: End Of The Jewish Year Exam

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We are a little more than three weeks away from Rosh HaShanah, one week into the Jewish month of Elul. As we prepare for a new year, we are taught to spend time closely examining our lives. This is not easy. Some compare this self-examination process to looking into a three-way mirror – the type you often find in department stores. We generally have one of four reactions when standing before such a mirror. The most common reaction: we are startled by a part of us that we never knew was there. Reaction two: we know what is there, but don’t want to acknowledge it, so we refuse to look into the mirror. Reaction three: we stand before the mirror and see a side of ourselves that actually makes us happy. Reaction four: we stand before the mirror and simply see clothing and pay no attention to the body that fills the clothing.

I hope that each of us has the courage to stand before a spiritual three-way mirror this time of year. As we do so, we can’t ignore the soul (our essence) that fills our body. Taking a step back and honestly looking at who we have become will be challenging for many of us. The difficult aspects of our lives, that we have worked very hard to ignore, will be completely visible before the spiritual mirror. We will discover attributes or behaviors that we never knew existed and would like to change. And, without a doubt, we will be given an incredible opportunity to see what makes us truly special, holy.

How exactly do we stand before the spiritual three-way mirror? We do so by performing Chesbon HaNefesh, an examination of the soul. Good news! Such an exam does not require an office visit or a co-pay. It simply involves your time and honesty.Below, you will find the “End Of The Jewish Year Exam.” Take it. I have sent out this same exam in previous years. If you have taken it before, don’t cheat off yourself! Answer the questions based upon your behavior during this Jewish year that is coming to an end. You don’t have to share your answers with anyone. Study your answers, as they are your spiritual three-way mirror. Learn from them. Embrace what you love. Don’t be too hard on yourself – appreciate that some of your imperfections are blessings. At the same time, however, recognize that, with some work, you can change a lot of what you don’t love! Grow. Change. This is what Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are all about. Give yourself the gift of the spiritual three-way mirror.

End Of The Jewish Year Exam

1. Have you taken care of yourself this year? Did you get a physical, go to the gym on a regular basis, eat well, give yourself time to relax and reflect? If you have not taken care of yourself, what has kept you from doing so?
2. Have you taken care of the important people in your life? How have you treated your spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, children, parents, siblings, friends, extended family, colleagues, etc. this year? Would you like to change anything? Are there relationships in your life that need improving?
3. Do you owe anyone an apology? If so, when will you apologize?
4. Have you refused to make amends with someone who apologized to you? Why?
5. Have you been financially responsible? If not, what can you d
o to change this?6. This year, what was your number one weakness? How can you overcome it in the new year?
7. Most of the time you feel________________(fill in the blank). Do you like the answer? If not, what can you change?
8. As this Jewish year ends, what do you regret the most? What can you do to not feel this way next year?
9. As this Jewish year ends, what are you most proud of? Have you congratulated yourself? Do you accept praise and compliments? Are you too hard on yourself?
10. What are you afraid of? What can you do to overcome this fear?
11. What unfinished business do you have to complete before the Jewish year is done?
12. Overall, are you happy with your life? If not, what do you want to see change this upcoming year? List three ways you can make these changes.
13. Have you given tzedakah (charity)? Do you volunteer
your time to help others? Do you have a “cause?” If you answered “no” to any of these things, would you like the answer to be “yes?” Why?14. Have you taken the time to explore your spiritualit
y? If so, what have you learned?15. How do you feel about God? Are you happy with your answer? If not, what can you do to make your answer different next year?
16. If you believe in God, have you been angry or upset with God this year? Have you expressed your feelings? If not, why?
17. Have you prayed/meditated this year? How did it make you feel?
18. What is one thing you want to accomplish in the new Jewish year?

ISH – Innovation, Spirituality, Home

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As many of you know, last year Ramat Shalom began an innovative project known as The Center for Jewish Life. The Center was a project that I was inspired to pursue as a result of my Fellowship with Rabbis Without Borders. Its primary goal was to reach out to the 90% of unaffiliated Jews in Broward County and provide them with a connection to Judaism – a connection that would encourage them to become more involved with Ramat Shalom. Thanks to the support of the national team at Rabbis Without Borders, our own Board of Directors, the generosity of our member Craig Lamm and the leadership of my wife, Rabbi Cheryl Jacobs, The Center for Jewish Life has grown and evolved over the past year. We have helped many folks find a meaningful connection to Judaism and, at the same time, strengthened the Ramat Shalom family. In April, I was invited to speak about The Center for Jewish Life at the annual meeting of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Leadership and Learning in New York City, where I received tremendous support for our program. As we move forward, we expect that our outreach efforts will continue to attract national attention and provide meaningful ways for the unaffiliated to connect with Judaism. In addition, our efforts will encourage membership growth here at Ramat Shalom and subsidize many of the synagogue’s programs and events.

Earlier this year, in an effort to ensure that The Center for Jewish Life would truly strengthen our community, we engaged in a visioning process with a professional consulting team at no expense to Ramat Shalom. This visioning process helped us further develop our goals and mission while transforming The Center for Jewish Life into a truly unique program that would appeal to a vast number of spiritual seekers. The results of this process have been incredible.

We learned very quickly in the process that if we are trying to appeal to unaffiliated Jews, many of whom are turned off by institutionalized religion, The Center for Jewish Life is the wrong name. Further, we learned that there are many spiritual seekers out there who might not officially identify as Jewish, but are very interested in exploring our faith and eventually finding a spiritual home among us. Over the past several months, Rabbi Cheryl has officiated at numerous conversion ceremonies and welcomed proud new Jews into our community.

As part of our visioning process, we were encouraged us to create an interactive website that will enable us to expand our outreach efforts well beyond Broward County and help an even larger audience engage spiritually with Judaism. Further, we talked about how there are many pathways to Judaism – each pathway leading folks closer to a meaningful connection with our faith. All of this encouraged us to change our name from The Center for Jewish Life to ISH – Innovation, Spirituality, Home. At ISH, your path can be left-ish, your path can be right-ish, your path can be somewhere in between-ish. At ISH, you will always find something meaningful and always connect to something Jewish. (For a great article on the birth of ISH as a word click here.)

Rabbi Cheryl is the Director of ISH. As with The Center for Jewish Life, Cantor Debbie and I play no role in ISH lifecycle events. We are here for our members. I will be teaching some online courses at ISH and I am excited to announce that all of ISH’s online learning programs and other events will be accessible to Ramat Shalom members, including an online Kabbalah class that I will be teaching beginning the end of the month. ISH’s website officially launches this weekend. I invite you to check it out – www.FindYourISH.com. For those of you who enjoyed last year’s High Holiday’s Gratitude Project, I encourage you to take part in ISH’s 30 Days of Gratitude which begins this weekend on the ISH Blog.

It Is Easy To Hate and It Is Difficult To Love

Friends,

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Last week, Shira Banki, a 16 years old Israeli teenager, was murdered at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade by a Jew who had just completed serving 10 years in prison for stabbing three people at the 2005 Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade.

Also last week, Ali Dawabsheh, an 18-month-old Palestinian baby, was murdered by radical Jewish extremists who burned down her home as part of a “price tag” terrorist attack.

Earlier this week, an Israeli woman driving through East Jerusalem was severely burned by a firebomb that was thrown into her car by suspected Palestinian terrorists who are still at large.

Yesterday, three Israeli soldiers were wounded when a Palestinian terrorist intentionally hit them with his car as they were hitchhiking in the West Bank. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have openly praised the terrorist.

These horrific acts of violence remind us that any religious extremism can be used to kill, maim and terrorize. No matter what religious ideology one embraces, once he uses this ideology to hate, he loses his humanity. Hate does not discriminate, it just destroys.

Confucius taught centuries ago that:

It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.

Sadly, his teaching remains true to this day. All it takes to hate is ignorance, fear of the unknown and the desire to be right. Love requires learning about someone else. It requires a connection, a relationship. Love requires understanding, compassion and the realization that we are all different. Love requires hard work.

Last week, in response to the murder of Ali Dawabsheh, Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, expressed his sorrow and shame over the murder. He wrote that “we must continue to believe in our ability to build bridges of coexistence, or a shared existence.” We must continue to believe that while it is easier to hate, we have the ability to reach out, lift up and love. It’s not easy to do – but as Confucius taught us: “All good things are difficult to achieve.”

May the memories of Ali Dawabsheh and Shira Banki somehow, some way, become a blessing. May their families be comforted by communities of many faiths and traditions. May those who have been injured in the recent attacks in Israel be healed and strengthened. And may we do our part to bring about peace this Shabbat and in the weeks and months ahead.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Andrew Jacobs

A Prayer for Austin and Perry

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We have all been thinking about Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, the two boys who went missing off the Florida coast last Friday. While some of us know the Stephanos and Cohen families personally, most of us just know about the boys from the media. There has been a lot of anger directed at the boys’ parents for allowing them to venture out to sea without an adult. Now is not the time to point fingers. As the search for the boys continues and their parents do everything in their power to find them, now is the time to offer our support and pray for their safety.

A Prayer For Austin and Perry

Hear our voice, God, have mercy on us. Accept our prayer with compassion and kindness. Help us to come back to You. Renew our lives as when we were young. Cast us not away from Your Presence. Take not Your holy spirit from us. Cast us not away in times of weakness. When our strength is gone do not abandon us. Do not be far from us. For You are our help and our comfort. Hear our words, God, and consider our innermost thoughts. May the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart be acceptable to You, O God, Our Rock and our Redeemer.

Dear God, please hear our prayer as we pray for the safety and return of Austin and Perry. We join together this Shabbat – in between worlds of hope and despair – to pray for their wellbeing. At this difficult time, we reach out to You and to one another to weave a sukkat shalom, a shelter of peace and a tapestry of love. May we find comfort in each other’s presence as we pray for the boys and their families. May the bonds of love and concern that we share reach out to them. Holy One of Blessing, we pray that you protect the boys under the sheltering wings of Your Presence. (Based on the words of Rabbi Jennifer Feldman)

My Thoughts On The Iran Deal

I hope everyone is having a good summer. I apologize for such a long, detailed and serious post – but I felt that it was important to share my concerns with you today.
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A headline on Ynetnews.com, an online site of one of Israel’s many newspapers, caught my attention yesterday. “US Team Beats Iran In Robot Soccer Final”. How I wish this headline wasn’t about a bunch of humanoid robots engaged in an intelligent sporting event. If only it was about the United States and other countries taking a bold stand and doing everything in their power to stop Iran from continuing down the dangerous path toward acquiring a nuclear weapon. If only it was about a fight that was fought and won in Vienna – a fight, much like the one involving humanoid robots, that did not harm or kill actual human beings. But, as has been widely reported, and as many might suggest is a natural part of the negotiation process, the United States and other world powers that comprise the P5+1 did not win in Vienna. Instead, they have, to quote Isaac Herzog, the opposition and Labor Party leader in Israel, let Iran “out of the cage” empowering her to “become a regional tiger.”

In addition to the real concern over the agreement reached in Vienna which, as many of us believe, is that the agreement legitimizes Iran as a nuclear weapon threshold state, the agreement is wreaking havoc here in the United States, particularly within the Jewish community. Politically, it has affected our own Jewish members of Congress. Back in May, 150 House Democrats signed a letter supporting President Obama’s determination to reach a deal with Iran. This is an important number because, if Congress is able to pass legislation over the next several weeks that rejects the agreement, 150 Democrats will have the power to uphold President Obama’s veto of this legislation. What must be pointed out is that missing from these 150 Democrats are our local leaders, Representatives Lois Frankel (Ramat Shalom’s Representative who has expressed her concerns over the agreement to me and other rabbis – read her most recent remarks here), Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings and Patrick Murphy. Many of these Congressmen/women are Jewish themselves and/or they represent many Jews. As such, they are aware of the genuine concerns that many of us have about this deal and they are evaluating the agreement very closely. Unfortunately, the stage is set for a political firestorm. It is so important that we share our concerns with each of our Congressional leaders, Democrats and Republicans – supporting them, thanking them, encouraging them to do the right thing. You can do this by clicking here.

For the most part, Jewish organizations here in the United States, including the Conference of Presidents, the American Jewish Committee and the usually very progressive Anti-Defamation League, have openly expressed and shared their strong disapproval of the Iran nuclear agreement. I share their concerns.

As many of you know, I am an active member of AIPAC, the strongest pro-Israel lobbying group in the US. AIPAC has been unusually outspoken against the agreement reached in Vienna and is aggressively lobbying Congress to put an end to the agreement. You can click here to learn why AIPAC considers the agreement to be unacceptable.

In Israel, the general consensus among the nation’s leaders, leaders who are usually at opposite ends of the spectrum on many issues, is that the deal with Iran is extremely irresponsible and dangerous – not just for Israel, but for the entire world. You can read more about this here.

Given all of this, I was shocked to read just yesterday that a poll released by the Los Angeles Jewish Journal shows that the majority of US Jews, 49%, support the agreement, compared to 28% of the general American population! 31% of American Jews oppose the deal compared to 24% of general American population. (Read more here.). These numbers, which admittedly come from just one poll, support the stance of J Street, the small, progressive advocacy group that works to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict and often clashes with AIPAC. J Street has been actively supporting and promoting the deal with Iran in a way that has actually offended leftwing, progressive Israelis. Noah Efron, an Israeli, leftwing political activist, senior fellow at the Shaharit “Think-And-Do” Tank, professor at Bar Ilan University, presenter on the Promised Podcast and (usually) a supporter of J Street, posted a letter expressing his concern to J Street supporters on Facebook stating:

There is something close to a consensus among leftist politicians here in Israel that the deal brings with it some grave dangers…I can understand how one might conclude that, on balance, this deal is better than no deal at all. I may agree, I don’t know. But it’s harder for me to understand your apparent lack of ambivalence and lack of concern, say, about some of the weaknesses (especially of oversight) in this deal…Your cheery support for the deal comes across to some of us here in Israel as a callous lack of concern about the real dangers that are part of this deal (from a regional nuclear arms race to Iran one day trying to destroy Israel, as it has threatened to do). The perception that the leading representatives of leftist Zionism in America is unconcerned about this danger, makes it harder for those of us trying to build support for leftist politics here, from within (and at a time when this is hard enough already)…I realize that you believe that this deal is, ultimately, in the best interest of Israel, the region and the world. But shouldn’t your position be that you will do everything in your power in the coming years to see that the weaknesses in the deal do not allow Iran to threaten Israel or anyone else? Shouldn’t your brows be furrowed and your countenances serious? Because as a (leftist) parent who is genuinely fearful for the future of his kids and theirs, I can’t help but find your popping-the-champagne-bottles cheer a little chilling.

I am very impressed with Professor Efron’s statement. I am opposed to the deal and hope that Congress is able to stop it. I am doing what I can to work with AIPAC and reach out to national leaders and I invite you to join me. I understand that not all of you share my position, but I do hope that, whether you agree with me or not, you allow Professor Efron’s words – words that come directly from Israel – to sink in. This should not be a left-right issue, a Democrat-Republican issue. This should be about the safety of Israel, the United States and the world.

Tomorrow night, we mark one of the darkest moments in Jewish history: Tisha B’Av – the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av. On this day, we remember the destruction of the two ancient Temples that stood in Jerusalem and many other nightmares that reportedly took place throughout history on the 9th of Av. The rabbis teach us that the Second Temple was destroyed in the year 70 CE because of sinat chinam – hatred between Jewish people. They warn us never again to engage in such hatred. I hope we can remember that we Jews need each other. We must brace ourselves for a lot of political fighting over the agreement with Iran. President Lincoln taught us that a “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” We as Jews, Americans and supporters of Israel must do everything in our power to ensure that we are not a house divided. We must ensure that we stand strong and protect all that is near and dear to us.

Forgiveness Takes Time

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Many of us have been in awe of the families of those murdered last week at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church. Somehow, someway, these families were able to forgive the man who killed their loved ones. This forgiveness is an integral part of their religion. For them, granting forgiveness is a tremendous gift of love that they can bestow on another person – a gift, they believe, is inspired and expected by God

As I spoke about a few weeks ago at Kabbalat Shabbat services, part of me envies those who are so quick to forgive and let go. Some of you know that I had a great-aunt who was murdered many years ago. I openly admit I don’t have it in me to forgive my great-aunt’s killer. I can’t get my head around some folks’ ability to forgive people who murder and cause so much destruction and, on top of this, link forgiveness to God.

While I certainly don’t believe in a God that punishes us, I do not believe in a God that – “poof” – just forgives people for their wrongdoings simply because they ask for forgiveness. Again, I don’t believe in a God that punishes us, but I do believe that we have the right and obligation to punish those who do wrong.

A few weeks ago, we read in the Torah about how Miriam and her brother Aaron are caught by God as they gossiped about their brother Moses. Miriam starts the gossiping, talking in a negative way about her sister-in-law, Moses’ wife. The gossip-fest continues as Miriam and Aaron ask: “Who does Moses think he is acting all powerful? What, is he better than us?”

God hears the gossip. Remember, Judaism teaches us that gossip is equivalent to murder since wicked words can destroy a person’s reputation and, therefore, destroy a person’s life. So gossip is not a petty crime. Because of this, God inflicts Miriam (not Aaron – this is a whole other conversation) with a terrible skin affliction that requires her to be removed from the community and put in isolation outside of the camp where she is confined for seven days until the skin affliction clears up.

Some might say that Miriam’s punishment – a skin infliction that heals and seven days of isolation – is not a severe punishment for such a serious crime. But let’s look at the symbolism surrounding Miriam seven-day punishment. As you know, God created the world in six days and relaxed on the seventh day. Over seven days, the entire world was created and the Creator was able to rest. Seven days represent everything, a lifetime, wholeness. This is the reason a little boy is circumcised on the eighth day of his life. It is after living seven full days that he is considered a complete human being – having lived a whole cycle of life on earth. So, some might say that Miriam is punished for only seven days. But those seven days are symbolic of a lifetime. Her punishment is no small thing.

The Torah teaches us that Miriam has to face the consequences of her actions. We don’t see God sweeping in and forgiving her. Moses actually tries to get God to do just this, begging God to heal his sister, but it doesn’t work. As we read the Torah, we see Miriam being called on the carpet and paying the price for her crime. Yes, eventually, once her seven days are up, she rejoins the people and they begin journeying once again in the desert, making their way to the Promised Land.

It is interesting to note that the Torah teaches us that the people wait for Miriam while she serves her punishment. They remain in place while she does her time outside of the camp. The people appreciate that the punishment process has to proceed as planned. Once it runs its course – Miriam comes home and everyone moves on. She is forgiven. But it takes time – time to heal, time for Miriam to face the consequences, time for the people to forgive.

My heartaches for the families who lost loved ones in Charleston. The senseless act of hatred and violence that took their loved ones from them is proof that evil does exist. Yes, part of me envies those who have been able to forgive the Charleston killer so quickly, but it is just a small part of me. While I do not stand in judgment of those who have forgiven him, my Jewish view of forgiveness, so powerfully expressed in the story of Miriam’s punishment, teaches me that forgiveness takes time. One can be forgiven. This is an essential part of our faith – just think about the High Holidays. Each of us can forgive and be forgiven. But, as we learn by Miriam’s symbolic seven-day punishment – forgiveness can’t be rushed. When people face the consequences of their actions, when punishments are served, when people truly learn from their mistakes and truly change, when genuine remorse is expressed – this is when forgiveness can be given.

Certainly, we can choose to forgive someone before she has to face the consequences of her poor choices. As I mentioned, even Moses tries to get his sister off the hook before she is exiled from the camp. But the story of Miriam’s punishment does not condone this path. Judaism does not teach us about a God that forgives simply because the sinner believes and proclaims her faith. Judaism does not teach us that by quickly forgiving others we make ourselves and the world a better place. No. Judaism teaches us that forgiveness is a process that requires the “sinner” to do her time, change her ways and earn back the trust she lost by acting inappropriately. Judaism also expects the one who did wrong to seek forgiveness from those she has wronged. This is part of the process. (It is important to point out that once someone has faced the consequences and sincerely asks us for forgiveness three times, if we refuse to grant forgiveness, we become the “sinner”. Something to think about.)

To forgive when there is no remorse, to forgive when there are no consequences, to forgive because we love the sinner and hate the sin – this is not the Jewish way. It does not teach the sinner. It does not encourage change. It does nothing to make the world a better place.

May we all find within ourselves the strength and courage to forgive those who have hurt us, but may we do so in a way that insures that lessons are learned and lives are changed for the better.