Letting Go

It is so wonderful to see people gathered together on the holiest day of the year. What is significant to me is not only Yom Kippur, the day of at-one-ment with G-d, but also how we feel and what we do the day after Yom Kippur. Please remember this and please know that you are always welcome here at Bet Shira Congregation.

Today and tomorrow are when we bring back the Isaiah Bags, filled to the brim to be returned to Jewish Community Services of South Florida. JCS has been serving the Jewish and non-Jewish community, providing exemplary social services through compassionate and comprehensive programs that help people stay healthy and productive. JCS is a beacon of help, healing and hope as it addresses current needs.  They provides a vast array of services and programs for Seniors, Holocaust Survivors, Children, Youth and Families, and Jewish Victims of Domestic Abuse through their Shalom Bayit Program.  The Kosher Food Bank, as many of you know, serves Jewish families in our community that suffer from food insufficiency.  Bet Shira has been a constant supporter of the Kosher Food Bank for many years, donating canned foods, gift cards and holiday gift baskets to JCS for these needy families. Thank you for your support of JCS.

 

I’m Never Going Back, The Past Is In the Past[1]

An old maxim is “forgive and forget.” We will read tomorrow afternoon in the Torah “Do not bear a grudge.”[2] Yet we know that this is much easier said than done. How do you let go of past slights, rather than holding onto them? Do you have thick enough skin that things roll off your back?

There’s a story I will never forget that I learned at a Hebrew High School orientation. While I may have said it before, it bears repeating today:

A father was driving along with his adult son. The son was complaining about someone who had slighted him a decade ago when he was in high school. The father stops the car and then says to his son, “How much rent are you paying him?” Perplexed, the son says, “He does not live with me!” The father replies, “He seems like it: he’s been living in your head this entire time.”

When we hold onto slights or injustices, we are the ones who suffer. The other person has forgotten about them quite some time ago, yet they are in our head. As we learn both from mindfulness and from Dan Millman, the way of the peaceful warrior is in the here-and-now.

We cannot control what happens to us, only how we react to it. Are we going to react in a way that lets go of the hurt or in a way that enables the other to “live in our head”? I certainly prefer the latter to the former.

The following parable illustrates how we let go.

 

Once there were two friends traveling together in the desert. At some point in the trip, the two began to argue. Then the first friend slapped his partner. The victim did not defend himself, but instead wrote in the sand: “Today my best friend gave me a slap.”

         The days passed and the two friends continued on their journey. They came to an oasis and decided to bath in the spring. The man who had been slapped began to drown, but his friend threw himself into the water and rescued him. The man was grateful, and he took his knife and began to carve into a stone, “today my best friend saved my life.”

         Now the first friend was really intrigued, so he asked his friend, “Why did you write in the sand when I slapped you, but now that I rescued you, you carved it into a stone?”

         The second friend answered with a smile, “When someone offends me, I try to write it in the sand, where the marks are easily erased by the winds of forgiveness. When someone does something good for me, I prefer to leave it engraved in stone so that I never forget, so memory will remind me that I should be grateful.”[3]

Letting go is very difficult, whether it be of words said, slights done to us or pain that we feel. We feel we benefit by holding onto the anguish and the hurt; yet it does us no good. We do better by forgiving and forgetting, moving on to what’s here for us now.

It is true that there are some things we cannot, we must not let go of-the most important of which is the topic I will be speaking about tomorrow. However, I pray that we let go of the individual slights that we feel whenever possible, forgiving others; as well as being able to forgive ourselves. Ken Yhi Ratzon, may it be our will to do so.

Before continuing with our service, I want to share this cute little poem “Time to Pray.”

 

“Time to Pray”

 

I got up early one morning

and rushed right into the day;

I had so much to accomplish
that I didn’t have time to pray.

Problems just tumbled about me,

and heavier came each task.

“Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered.
He answered, “You didn’t ask.”
I wanted to see joy and beauty,

but the day toiled on, gray and bleak;

I wondered why God didn’t show me.
He said, “But you didn’t seek.”
I tried to come into God’s presence;

I used all my keys at the lock.

God gently and lovingly chided,
“My child, you didn’t knock.”

I woke up early this morning,

and paused before entering the day;

I had so much to accomplish

that I had to take time to pray.[4]

 

[1] Elsa in Frozen, “Let It Go”

[2] Leviticus 19:18

[3] Júlio César de Mello e Souza, writing as Malba Tahan

[4] http://kubik.org/lighter/praytime.htm. Thank you to Steve Mann for introducing me to this lighthearted poem.

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