I’ve been thinking a lot lately.
You’ll notice, obviously, that it’s been a little while since my last post. This is largely because I’ve been thinking, as opposed to writing. That, plus the fact that I’ve been working overtime at my job, Hebrew school has started for both my wife and me, I lead junior congregation services at a synagogue on the high holidays and I have a fifteen-month-old child who has decided it’s his mission in life to break world records for speed in making messes of our living room. So time to write has been hard to come by.
That being said, things are finally starting to get somewhat back to “normal” at work, or as normal as they can be when they involve working with families whose kids have mental health and behavioral challenges, so my brain has been slightly less fried on my commutes lately, so I’ve been able to think about things a bit.
This past weekend was the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. There are a number of different interpretations regarding the purpose of Yom Kippur. Traditionally, this is the day when Jews request forgiveness for their sins1, both from their friends and family and from God, and pray for a favorable judgment from the Almighty that leads to being inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year.2 People approach this day differently, according to their own spiritual and religious beliefs, their personal relationships and understandings of “God,” and whether they buy the whole concept of God pre-determining whether they’re going to live for another year or not. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle on all three, but either way, I tend to use Yom Kippur as an opportunity to reflect on my place in life, my relationships with the different people in my life and my behavior over the past year.3
I’m sorry if you’re disappointed, but I’m not going to list all the things I came up with during those self-evaluations. This may be a space for me to share my thoughts with the universe, but I think a lot of that stuff is probably better off kept private, if only for the sake of the other people involved. Let’s just say I have some work to do and leave it at that.
If I consider one of the functions of this blog as a way for me to communicate with my son (as has been suggested in the past), though, I do think there’s a message or a moral that was underlying a lot of the dynamics I was examining. I’m not usually one to get preachy but I do think it’s important that Eitan be aware that it’s easy to become complacent. Relationships take work, whether they involve family, friends or even co-workers, and the effort a person puts in to those relationships is usually directly correlated with the quality and strength of the connection that results. I feel comfortable admitting that my understanding of my role as father has fluctuated since Eitan was born, as well as the work I’ve done to care for my family. I haven’t always been the best father over the past fifteen months, but I do feel like I’m finally starting to understand exactly what my family needs from me. The main concept dealt with on Yom Kippur is t’shuvah, a word generally translated as “repentance” but which is more closely related to “return.” Asking forgiveness from God and from the people I have wronged over the past year is the first part of the process. The other, much more difficult step is making an active decision to change the behavior that led us astray in the first place.
I’ve asked for forgiveness; now the real work begins.
1. Autocorrect may want to find a therapist to work out its daddy issues because it keeps trying to change “sins” to “sons.”↩
2. My favorite moment of leading junior congregation during the High Holidays was when I compared the Book of Life to Santa’s nice and naughty lists and one of the kids said, “Hey, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is my jam!”↩