Sunday, October 7, 2018

Where is my Apology? And Rap Daddy Raps about Genisis

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

True Empathy

When you want to comfort and encourage someone who is brokenhearted and discouraged, do not just act dryly, saying the correct words but without your soul being involved. Do not just mutter platitudes and the standards formulas that people use in these situations.

Rather, comfort them with the completeness of your heart and with your entire soul. Your inner love should be manifest in a sincere smile and manner of speech. Fill your heart with enough love and kindness that these attributes will overflow. Only then will you be successful in alleviating the bitterness and depression.

Next time someone needs comforting, focus on these points and see the difference that it makes.

Love Yehuda Lave

Just before Yom Kippur when Ari Fuld was murdered in cold blood, I went to the Shiva house of his parents, where a morning prayer was held.

On their mantel was the following statement that almost knocked me over:

We many not have it all together, but together we have it all.

Where's My Apology?

It's the time of year when Jews traditionally apologize … but what if you're the wronged party?

By Marjorie Ingall


Where's My Apology?

It's the time of year when Jews traditionally apologize … but what if you're the wronged party?

By Marjorie Ingall


Part of the lead-up to Yom Kippur involves asking people you've hurt, accidentally or deliberately, for forgiveness. And our texts offer lots of advice about how, when, and why to say we're sorry.

But what if you're the wronged person? What if you've spent weeks or months or years seething? What if you've been waiting for too dang long for an apology that seems not to be forthcoming? Can you ask for that apology? Demand it? Be super-duper-Jewish-mother-cliché-passive-aggressive about it?

Let's ponder what Jewish tradition has to say!


Our classic texts brim with musings on the art of apologizing and forgiveness. What we want for ourselves and for others is to engage in real teshuvah (literally "return")—an about-face on all we've screwed up. David R. Blumenthal, professor of Judaic Studies at Emory, notes that teshuvah involves five things: Recognizing your own wrongdoing (hakarat ha-chet), feeling remorse (charata), desisting from the sin (azivat ha-chet), making restitution when possible (peira'on), and confessing (vidui). (There's debate—of course there is, because we're Jews—on what order these elements should come in.)

To continue the parsing fun, there are three ways to beg forgiveness: mechila, selicha, and kappara. Mechila is what most of us think of when it comes to Yom Kippur traditions: approaching friends and family and asking for forgiveness for anything you might have done to distress them in the past year. And if there's something specific you know you did, you gotta name it. We Jews can be a legalistic, nitpicky people, and mechila—from the rabbinic Hebrew root mem-het-lamed—means "remitting a debt." The delightful Hebrew linguistics site Balashon notes that the root word can also mean "to wipe out" or "to strike." It almost sounds like contract language, no? In his wonderful book Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life, Rabbi Irwin Kula notes that mechila can indeed be legalistically dry. It needn't be a big emotional megillah. It needn't even be heartfelt. It can just be a polite ritual ("I'm sorry" "Oh, no problem") and the debt is paid. Even if the apology is meh. Honestly, pro forma apologies are what most of us are engaged in during the High Holiday season.

Selicha, on the other hand, is a bigger deal. Kula calls it a process rather than a moment in time. Selicha means "forgiveness," and it requires hard work. When we want someone to apologize to us, what we generally want is for them to understand how deeply they've hurt us, to grovel, to prove to us that they've delved into the darkness of what they've done. For us to be able to grant forgiveness, though, we may have to struggle, too. "Often we emerge stronger, clearer, and wiser when we wrestle with forgiveness, no matter the outcome," Kula writes. "Even if reconciliation occurs, it doesn't mean the relationship continues where it left off."

Selicha, it seems, requires that we embrace imperfection. It's a bit like the Japanese art of kintsugi, repairing cracks in pottery with gold. The cracks are still there. We still see them. But they become part of a new, strong, beautiful thing. The fact that the piece has been broken becomes simply part of the object's history—it still has value.

Part of the art of repair can indeed involve telling someone they need to apologize to you. Kula notes: "Sometimes we need to be rebuked in order to understand that we have to ask for forgiveness." Asking for an apology means telling the other person that they've cracked your vessel. "We all know the famous verse from the Book of Leviticus that says, 'Love your neighbor as yourself,'" Kula writes, "but few remember that this intuition begins with the following words: 'Rebuke, rebuke! Criticize your neighbor, but do not hold a grudge in your heart.'"

But is it really possible to "rebuke, rebuke" in such a way that the other person will hear our pain and respond appropriately? Can rebuke bring us to a place that lets both parties, or even just the person demanding an apology, rebuild and repair? "An essential part of loving is critiquing," Kula writes. "This is especially important to remember when we feel we're nurturing an injury, when our resentment is keeping us from living fully, or when it's stunting the growth of a relationship. It's incumbent upon us to criticize when we feel the person could benefit from our doing so." You may succeed in helping the other person grow. You may not. But if you can do the work of self-reflection, and say what you have to say without requiring a certain response, you might find yourself feeling healed.

Finally, let's ponder the third kind of forgiveness—seeking, kappara. That means "atonement." Its root is in the very name of this holiday: Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. "In psychological language, it's an inner experience of return, of feeling whole again," Kula writes. "We literally have a sense of expansion, of tremendous relief and elevation." It's the trippy feeling we get at the end of a 25-hour fast. It wipes the slate clean. No cracks. Complete perfection and purity. As Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg notes: "Forgiveness is up to the victim (and the victim alone). Atonement is up to God."

In an interview, Ruttenberg pointed to a Talmudic precedent for asking for an apology: Yoma 87a, which states, "It is related that when Rabbi Zeira had a complaint against a person who insulted him, he would pace back and forth before him and present himself, so that the person could come and appease him." In other words, Rabbi Zeira made himself available so that the other person could easily apologize to him, and perhaps made it clear (via theatrical flouncing hither and yon) that he was hanging out in front of the person's face, waiting for … something.

And yes, we should give people the opportunity to apologize to us, if we think there's any hope of growth for either party. "We want to cultivate a world in which we can say 'I am hurt,'" Ruttenberg said. "We want to create the space of the empathetic curiosity of I-Thou. Sometimes in relationships there are mutual bad habits, and you ping back and forth at each other. I'm not talking about situations in which there's abuse and gaslighting, with the guilty party trying to make the other party feel responsible, but there are times when someone does harm but is also able to do the work of listening and hearing."

She continued: "Part of the fact of human nature is that sometimes we cause harm and we're not aware. Maybe we were focused on our own stuff and didn't realize our actions had an impact on others. Maybe we were so deep in our own baggage we weren't attuned to someone else's. Sometimes the behavior that warrants an apology comes from a place of ignorance—say, someone can be trying to connect but they're microaggressing all over somebody."

Our texts, Ruttenberg said, urge us to give others the benefit of the doubt. "We're helping them do the work of teshuvah that they need to do, by making them conscious," she said firmly. "Maybe you've walked away with scars and they don't even know it. You can let them know the scars are there. You can help them grow by giving them the opportunity to make it right. But hoping that another person can rise up to meet you opens you up to the possibility of being hurt even further. Still, you can give people the opportunity to show up. A supergenerous way to handle it is to say, 'I'm holding onto this thing from last month or last year. Let me tell you and let me give you some time to think about what I've said.' Sometimes people need a minute to process and really hear the other person." (Indeed, there's research that too-hasty apologies come off as less sincere than apologies that take a little longer.)

The upshot here: You have to think about what you want when you ask for an apology. Are you furious? Are you on the attack? The other person is likely to respond defensively, and you won't get the resolution you're looking for. "The work of this season is about repair," Ruttenberg said. "If what you want to do is offload your pain, that's going to bring a different result than if you're coming to someone because they've harmed you and you want to give them the chance to fix it." Repair and retribution are very different things. Think about the other person's perspective when you ask for an apology; they may feel that you're the one who's in the wrong.

Choose your words carefully; if someone blurts out an apology just to get away from you and end the conversation, they won't mean it, and you won't be satisfied. (But if it makes you feel better, "An apology to get someone off your back is not halachically OK," Ruttenberg said.)

A further question: If you're demanding an apology despite having no intention of forgiving the person, what's your goal, exactly? Are you hoping that they'll fall to their knees sobbing, begging to be allowed back into your good graces, admitting that they suck? This is, in the real world, unlikely to occur. The Mishneh Torah says that a penitent person should "cry out in tearful supplication" to God, give charity and "distance himself exceedingly from the thing wherein he sinned … to completely change his conduct for the good and straight path," and also "exile himself from his place of residence, for exile atones iniquity, because it leads him to submissiveness and to be meek and humble-spirited," which would be totally awesome and satisfying, but yeah, good luck with that.

What's more likely is that the person will a) lash out at you or b) apologize half-assedly to get you to stop talking. Maimonides, who had a way with metaphors, noted that if someone apologizes without making a conscious choice to change, they're like someone entering a mikveh while holding a dead lizard. They're not going to get clean. And you're not going to feel better. (Sense a theme here?) And they won't make better decisions in the future. They may go on to hurt others just as they've hurt you.

But, if you're able to consider that you and the other person might both be at fault, and perhaps you both can apologize, you're on stronger ground. As Tablet's Adam Kirsch recounted in Daf Yomi a while back, "Once Rabbi Yirmeya insulted Rabbi Abba, so he 'went and sat at the threshold' of Abba's house, seeking to apologize. While he was sitting there, Rabbi Abba's maid accidentally poured out the sewage onto Yirmeya's head. When Abba heard about this, he went and sought Yirmeya's forgiveness. Each rabbi was eager not to be put in the wrong by refusing to apologize." Ah, the healing power of sewage. Would it be possible, do you think, for you and the person you want to apologize to both say you're sorry? With you taking the lead? With no sewage?

Or maybe, just maybe, you're the one who's more at fault? Maimonides chided, "It is an utter sin to tell a baal teshuvah [literally "owner of repentance"], 'Remember your previous deeds,' or to recall them in his presence to embarrass him. This is all forbidden. We are warned against it within the general category of verbal abuse which Torah has warned us against as Leviticus 25:17 says: 'A man should not mistreat his colleague.'" So … is it possible you're the one holding on to the reptile?

Look, if you're in a fury, and hoping for an apology despite knowing on some level it won't be forthcoming or won't be as satisfying as you've dreamed, maybe you're just better off imagining the other person dead. In another Daf Yomi tale, a butcher insulted Rav, and Rav went to the butcher's shop to make up with him. (Even though it wasn't Rav's fault!) But when the butcher saw Rav, he said, 'Go, I have nothing to say to you!' Suddenly a bone from the animal the butcher was chopping up shot off the table and crushed his throat. And he died.

You can do your own self-inventory, ask for an apology, and hope you get the resolution you seek. But if you think it's unlikely to end satisfyingly for you, you can always hope that heaven will provide for you as it did for Rav.

Rap Daddy D - Genesis Rap

Rap Daddy is a friend of mine from Israel. He has making music like this for 30 years.


Transgressions against a fellow man are not forgiven by Yom Kippur until one makes amends (Yoma 85b).

 Prior to the High Holidays, a man asked his rabbi for guidance in doing proper teshuvah. Among other things, the rabbi instructed him to make a list of all the people he had harmed, because unless one obtains forgiveness from those whom one offended, teshuvah is incomplete.

Before Yom Kippur, the man returned and showed the rabbi the list he had made of people he had harmed. "Your list is incomplete," the rabbi said. "Go back and finish it."

The man was bewildered. How could the rabbi know whether the list he had made was complete or not? Nevertheless, he gave it greater consideration and indeed added several names to the list. To his surprise, the rabbi again rejected the list as being incomplete.

"What is it that you want of me?" the man asked. "You forgot to put yourself at the top of the list," the rabbi said. "When you do improper things, you harm yourself. Not until you realize that improper behavior is self-destructive can your teshuvah be complete."

This is an extremely important point. Indeed, Moses stressed this in his final message to the Israelites. I have placed before you life and death, blessing and curse ... to love your God, obey him and cleave unto him, that is your life (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). Moses made it clear that fulfilling the Divine will is life, and deviating therefrom is self-destructive.

Just as we might be considerate of others not to harm them, we should also show the same consideration for ourselves.

Today I shall ...
... realize that transgressing the Divine will is self-destructive, and make a commitment to preserve my life.

45 Fascinating Historical Photos Volume 8

45 Fascinating Historical Photos Volume 8

Who Gets to Pray on the Temple Mount? It pains me that I can't pray there. But it's not an Arab woman who is preventing me

by Ruchama King Feuerman

So the Arab women, calling themselves the army of Muhammad, stand guard at the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif, Noble Sanctuary, whatever you call it, depending on what tribe you're from. In between noshing and knitting and drinking tea, they seek out Jews, the visibly religious kind who ascend the Temple Mount, to stop them from praying there. They chase them down, surround them, terrify them, some calling them pigs and apes. "Everyone must protect Al Aksa so the Jews don't take it," a woman says, as reported in the New York Times.

I imagine it's all much worse, especially hearing reports from friends who live in Jerusalem and go to the Kotel frequently.

I wonder: Are these Arab women genuinely afraid of a religious take-over? How much of this outcry is a religious imperative and how much of it is a means to achieving a political goal? I can only guess.

There is no shrine anywhere in the world that can evoke such drama, anxiety, and a complexity of feeling as this spot where Israel's ancient Jewish Temples once stood and where the Al Aksa Mosque and Dome of the Rock now stand.

During the ten years I lived in Israel, I would pray at the Western Wall, a tiny segment of the rocky wall, so plain and small in comparison to the Temple Mount with its huge gleaming edifice of the Dome of the Rock. And yet today, this blunt wall is the most preferred and holiest spot for Jews to pray in the world.

Sometimes I'd wonder what went on above on the Noble Sanctuary, how they prayed, what they were saying, but usually the Western Wall, the Kotel, took all of my concentration. I'd pour out my heart on those craggy stones and walk away feeling an inner alignment, anchored. Later, when I married and returned to the U.S. to live in New Jersey – anti-climactic, I know – I prayed, as Jews do everywhere, facing east toward Jerusalem.

The rabbis of old made it so that the Jerusalem is always on our tongues and on our lips, no matter where we are, even now, in the suburbs of New Jersey. Yes, even when we eat pizza and recite the grace after eating, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are emphasized in the blessing. When Jewish women immerse in the mikvah, the ritual bath, they say a single prayer, there in the water. Not for fertility, not for love between a wife and husband. But – "Rebuild our temple like the days of old." For a religious Jew, the Temple Mount surfaces a hundred times a day and more, that's how habituated our tongue is to yearning for it.

But to pray on the Temple Mount? I have no plans to do so, not anytime soon, not even if the Waqf – the Islamic authorities that govern the Noble Sanctuary – were to invite me.

Why? Because normative Jewish law prohibits ascending the mountain. No Jew can walk on the spot where the Holy of Holies once stood, where only the High Priest on Yom Kippur was sanctioned to enter. It is only after the Messiah comes or the red heifer appears, that the Temple will be rebuilt. Until then, to trespass there is a grave sin.

But here's where it gets interesting. For two thousand years, Diaspora Jewry was cautious. One did not irritate the Gentile nations, thereby fulfilling the ancient dictum: One mustn't be a thorn in their eyes. In the Middle Ages the rabbis exhorted their flock not to build lavish homes, lest it provoke the envy of their Christian neighbors. As recently as 50 years ago, the old time European rabbis now in America asked their congregants not to wear their prayer shawls in the streets. One ought not take too visible a position.

Then came the establishment of the State of Israel. Many Christians and Jews understood this to be a fulfillment of the millennia old promise: "Even if your exiles are at the end of the heavens, the Lord, your God, will gather you from there and He will bring you to the land which your forefathers possessed, and you will take possession of it..." (Deut. 30:1-5). It was experienced by many as a divine miracle, as though we had been given enchanted power by the Almighty to win an incredibly improbable victory. The Messiah couldn't be too far off.

However, the Messiah tarried. Perhaps as many theologians have understood, these are the birth pangs of the Messiah, but it's been a long birth, and he still hasn't come.

It's understandable that a few have agitated for a Messianic Caesarean birth. Let us hurry the Messiah along, let us force his hand if need be, by political action on the world stage. Open up the Temple Mount, they say. The Messiah is nigh, and if we meet him halfway he will surely appear.

The Messiah is coming, he is always coming.

Netanyahu said back in November, after the assassination attempt on Yehudah Glick's life, "It is easy to start a religious fire; it is much more difficult to extinguish it."

Whether he is aware of it or not, Netanyahu is in line with mainstream rabbinical Diaspora ideology, which is the way Jews have been functioning since Roman times. A Jew does not ask for too much, a Jew does not grab. Just give me Yavneh and its sages, Rabbi Yochanan said to Vespasian, after the conquering Roman general offered him anything the elderly rabbi requested. The Talmud famously asks, Why didn't he ask for the return of Jerusalem and the Temple? Because he was a pragmatist.

And yet, and yet... Who cannot be pained and outraged to see Jews hounded on their sacred land? Does one need reminding that Judaism's holiest spot on earth isn't the Kotel – it's the Temple Mount!

Sometimes I want to cry out: Enough with this humiliating passivity. If we don't claim this land as ours, it may be lost forever.

But then the words of our sages return to me, as they must. One isn't permitted to force the hand of the Messiah. For now, one cannot pray there. Instead I yearn to see our Temple rebuilt, and Jews from the four corners of the earth coming to pray there as a unified people. May we see this speedily in our days.

Ruchama Feuerman wrote extensively about the Temple Mount in her award winning novel, "In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist."

Remembering Rose Pitonof: The Real Coney Island Mermaid At age 15, Rose Pitonof made history by swimming 21 miles to reach the Coney Island Steeplechase By Marjorie Ingall

On Sept. 19, 1910, Rose Pitonof, age 15, swam from East 23rd Street in Manhattan to Steeplechase Pier on Coney Island. The jaunt took 5 hours and 6 minutes and covered 17 miles; Pitonof, from Dorchester, Massachusetts, was the first person to do it. The following year, she returned to the murky East River waters, swimming from the East 26th Street Pier to Coney Island. To contend with powerful currents and thrashing waves, she wound up swimming under three bridges and covering 21 miles instead of 17. It took her 8 hours and 7 minutes. In a breathless account, The New York Times reported that a Boston lifeguard trailed Pitonof in an auxiliary boat, just in case. The paper of record noted dryly, "When near Fourteenth Street, Manhattan, Mr. McColgan dived overboard for the purpose of swimming beside the girl but suffered a cramp and had to be picked up by the boat. The girl went to his assistance, but her efforts were not needed." Savage.

(A tip of the hat to the delightful blog Ephemeral New York, for introducing me to Ms. Pitinof's exploits.)

Before conquering New York City's waters, Pitonof vanquished Boston's. At the age of 10, she swam a mile and a half across Boston Harbor in 33 minutes. At 15, six weeks before her 1910 Coney Island swim, she won the notorious 8-mile open-water Boston Light Swim, setting a new record. It took her 6 hours and 50 minutes, and she consumed only a small glass of eggnog along the way. She competed against seven men, all of whom had to quit mid-race. (The previous year, Australian swimming sensation Annette Kellermann had attempted the Boston Light Swim and failed, though she came closer to the lighthouse than any male entrant.)

After the Boston Light triumph and resulting press attention, Pitinof went into vaudeville. She did diving demonstrations and taught swimming (she favored the breaststroke) in a portable tank that her troupe toted across the country. Her image appeared on cigarette cards, the baseball cards of her day.

By 1911, everyone knew Rose Pitinof. Fifty thousand people showed up to watch her tackle Coney Island the second time. Her brother Adolf, a fellow swimmer, served as her coach (alas, he died in the great flu epidemic of 1918). When Rose emerged from the water, she was so besieged by fans, it took 10 minutes for her to walk less than 200 feet to her dressing room. "This was accomplished only by the efforts of a flying wedge of attendants, who forcibly worked their way through the human wall of thousands trying to get a glimpse of Miss Pitinof," the Times noted. Then she indulged in a cup of coffee and a chicken sandwich.

The stocky 4-foot, 10-inch Pitinof accomplished all this in an era in which American girls, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, were discouraged from playing sports or engaging in physical activity. Scientists believed that running, swimming, and cycling could cause horrifying yet unspecified reproductive damage. Plus, of course, sports were unfeminine and caused one to dress like a whore.

The greatest tragedy before 9/11 was the 1904 General Slocum disaster, in which over a thousand women and children on a pleasure cruise up the East River died when the ship caught fire not far from shore. The captain's incompetence, the women's heavy woolen clothing, and the ship's inadequate and crumbling life preservers all contributed to the tragedy … but most women and children then didn't know how to swim. (You recall the Talmudic saying—A father has three obligations: Teach your child Torah. Teach your child to earn a living. And teach your child to swim. Sometimes the Talmud speaks in metaphors, sometimes not.) Pitinof helped to educate Americans to the fun, power and lifesaving potential of swim.

Her one regret was never successfully swimming the English Channel. That accomplishment would have to wait for Gertrude Ederle in 1926. Eventually, Pitinof retired from competition. She got married, had kids, became a swimming teacher, gave birth to two daughters (one of whom became a champion swimmer herself). and died in 1984, at age 89. Today, the annual Rose Pitonof swim, which recreates her 1911 route, commemorates her New York City feat.

See you tomorrow

Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

2850 Womble Road, Suite 100-619, San Diego
United States


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