Elul Homework 2 (I've done that too!)

confirmation and verification

Sometimes we think that we are the only person who has done such terrible things to others. It can be liberating and forgiving for us, and those others like us, to learn that we are not alone. It also often feels good to have others “sign off” on recognizing that we may have done something wrong as Yankel half-jokingly suggested in his comment on the Elul Homework 1 page:

…perhaps the checklist should have a place for the wronged person to sign, i.e. “forgiven on (date), by (wronged person)”.

So, I offer this possibility.
How many of us have been to a party with strangers and been asked to fill out a “get acquainted grid”? We might be a bit more forgiving of others and ourselves if we could learn that those with whom we work and/or live have in our histories and perhaps even recent experiences similar struggles.

the “I’ve done that too” grid

Judah and Pinchas learned while sitting among the colleagues and students of R. Ila’i that we all share the same boundaries of birth and death as well as many of the same shortcomings.

  • We have let friendships deteriorate because we haven’t tried to bridge the gap of hurt.
  • We have not helped when we could.
  • We have expressed sorrow for our actions, but only when we felt it might prevent worse consequences.
  • We have done things to others that we would not want done to ourselves.
the selichot "bingo" card

a portion of the (downloadable) selichot "bingo" card

While there are frequently more than twelve steps to solving problems and the idea that we have the capability of solving our problems without “professional” help can be and has been ridiculed, there is a truth in the idea that we have within us the ability (perhaps with some intervention from others who know and understand us) to collect those mis-aimed arrows and correct our aim.

full disclosure

I admit to having a personal connection to this idea. My father, who worked as a professional marriage and family counselor spent much of the last years of his career studying what he called “Peer Self Help Psychotherapy Groups” (PSHPGs we called them). He did his research (in the early and mid 1970s) long before the groups became common in popular culture and later renamed “Self-Help Mutual Aid Groups”. He believed that by de-commercializing the therapeutic relationships these groups had as much, if not more efficacy than professional psychotherapy. In addition, Dad, though an atheist, thought he found some of the origins of these groups in religious movements. His work formed part of the kernal of the story of Bethami and R. Ila’i.

origins of the rabbinic yom kippur observance

How did it happen that what was once exclusively a sacrificial event in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem become transformed into a gathering for the public confession of wrong-doing? The sources only tell us that the transformation occurred, as though the curtain went down on the Temple and rose a moment later displaying the synagogue and the liturgy we now know.

Over the centuries we have added many “exercises” to the tasks of Yom Kippur. I believe, if we were to focus at least as much on their meaning as we do on the formal liturgy, we might gain greater fulfillment from the day. And so…

You can download a copy of the Selichot Homework Sheet 2, make copies and distribute them for your own use. This one exists only in PDF format. In the next couple of weeks, as we come nearer to Rosh haShannah and Yom Kippur I will present additional (online) tools to help explore the meaning of the Al Ḥet.

Many lapel buttons are novelty items, sometimes produced commercially. So it is with this one. I don’t know the origin of this button, though it dates from the 1980s. I have never worn it. (I probably never will wear it… I don’t identify with the value it represents.) As we approach the High Holy Days, our task is to come to terms with the issues that face us and not simply kvetch.


Date: 1980s
Size: 3.6
Pin Form: clasp
Print Method: celluloid
Text kvetcher

your lapel buttons

Many people have lapel buttons. They may be attached to a favorite hat or jacket you no longer wear, or poked into a cork-board on your wall. If you have any laying around that you do not feel emotionally attached to, please let me know. I preserve these for the Jewish people. At some point they will all go to an appropriate museum. You can see all the buttons shared to date.

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