Over the next 36 hours, I’ll confess repeatedly to a crime I didn’t commit. Several, actually, although I’m starting to wonder if I might be an accomplice to at least a few.
The Days of Awe are racing to a close and, as always, I’m unprepared for an appointment that has been on the calendar for almost 3,500 years. It’s not that I’m unaware of the 10-day period of reflection that ends with our sealing in the Book of Life…or not…at the close of Yom Kippur tomorrow night. It’s just that I’m never ready to sit in on the test. Oh? You mean that’s today??
Our dates with destiny arrive without regard for our readiness, though, and I’ll find myself in the synagogue tonight and Monday, along with millions of Jews across the globe, confessing as a group to a gigantic list of sins. One of the confessional prayers is an acrostic, using all the letters of the alphabet to suggest we are guilty of transgressions from A to Z. Ashamnu, the name of the prayer, translates as, “We are guilty.”
We abuse, we betray, we are cruel. Yeah, I guess I’ve done some of that over the past year. Then we get to the part about robbing and killing and, wait a minute, why am I confessing to stuff I’ve absolutely never done? The traditional explanation is that we confess as a community, connected and responsible in some way for each other’s failings. That means somebody in my synagogue is getting away with murder—so I definitely need to be nicer around them—while I have to shoulder some of their guilt. It all seems incredibly unfair, although they’re probably irritated at confessing to sins that I committed and they avoided over the past year. I guess it depends on how we keep score.
On the positive side of the ledger, I frequently suggest that my charitable work has saved lives. I might not know where or how or whose, but I’m 100% certain someone is alive today, or will not be harmed tomorrow, as an indirect but inevitable result of my intervention. I don’t think much about the other side of the scorecard, the one where my action, or inaction, has led to harm. What if, like Peter Parker, my failure to act has made me an inadvertent accessory to murder?
Okay, that’s overly dramatic and Uncle Ben was pretty old already, but there is a point at which the comparison is valid. It’s our choice to take action, but it’s also our choice when we take a pass. If I’m going to extrapolate from my few acts of charity to claim I am saving the world, it’s only fair that I take some heat for the paths I didn’t take.
None of us can shift the earth’s axis on our own, but tipping the scales is always an option if we choose to act. Maybe I’m doing this right. Maybe I’m choosing life. Or maybe I’ve become complacent, coasting on an inflated sense of worth. Maybe I need to take another look at that list.
If it turns out that I really am a murderer after all, you don't want to take the risk of ignoring my "suggestion" that you click here to subscribe. If you know what's good for you.
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.