Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By David Bornstein
The Good Word 

We can be better


Space-time compression. Globalization. Expansion diffusion. These are terms my son just had to define and learn in his ninth grade human geography course. Though each has a different meaning, they all have an underlying connection. As technology improves, as travel is made easier, and ideas and culture and products are exported with greater ease, while the database we share may grow, the world shrinks. It is the rare individual now who is not connected. It is the unique community that does not have a link to the rest of the world. And as we all become closer, as borders and boundaries fall, we lose a part of ourselves that, at this time of year, as Jews, we must hold onto with fervor and passion. We lose a bit of what makes us unique, what makes us sensitive. As we ask forgiveness and look at ourselves through God’s lens, as we admit our mistakes and face our sins, we must do more than simply shrug away the past by saying we did wrong. We must do better.

We are inundated with images of life’s frailty, the ephemeral nature of peace, the brevity of success, the violence of war. We see countries ravaged by the ebola virus. We watch refugees flee their homes as terrorists approach. We witness children being orphaned, women being beaten, towns being razed, climates changing, forests burning, cities crumbling as poverty becomes overwhelming. And what happens to us — to the vast majority of us — is not what you’d expect. While there may be a call to action, fewer and fewer of us respond. Where there is a need, more often than not it goes unanswered, half-met. We don’t become active. We grow numb.

I hear the lines again and again. “I’ve done my share.” “I’ve put in my time.” “It’s someone else’s turn.” “It’s not my fault.” “It’s not something I’m interested in.” “I don’t care.” And I must admit, some of those have come from my mouth as well. But none of them carry any weight. It’s always our turn. Our time is never up. We have to care, because if we don’t, who will?

There is something wonderfully proactive about the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It’s not enough to go to synagogue and pray for God to write our names in the book of life. It’s not enough to ask that our sins be expiated as a community. We are expected to go to those we have hurt and wronged and directly ask for their forgiveness. To look our family, our friends, even our enemies in the eye and acknowledge our mistakes and confess our transgressions and then hope that they are generous enough to forgive. It’s a lesson we were all taught in Sunday school when we were six and seven years old. But I think we may have missed the point.

During the 10 days of atonement, two things hopefully occur. We take responsibility and action without any thought or expectation of someone else doing it for us, and we rely on the kindness and generosity of others to renew our lease on life.

Isn’t that what we want? On the one hand, for people everywhere to take responsibility for themselves and their actions, and on the other, for others to be kind and generous. And if it’s how we want others to act, then why not us? Why not this year? Why not now?

It’s not enough to have good intent, to hope others get the message, and it’s too easy to remain passive. We are swamped with the ills of the world, and we can’t cure them all. But we can’t use the flood of problems as an excuse to sit back and do nothing. It’s not enough to say the right things, to beat our chests and wish we had done things differently. It’s time to do things right. As Jews we hold ourselves to a higher standard. And we should. We can all do a little more this year. We can foster a homeless puppy. We can help an elderly person across the street. We can donate excess cans of food to the hungry. We can see the faces of pain across the world and make a pledge of any size to help. We can do more. We can be more. May we all be written in the book of life, and this year make the world, and ourselves, better.

And that’s the good word.

Send your thoughts, comments, and critiques to the Heritage or email dsb328@gmail.com.


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