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  • Writer's pictureRabbi David Paskin

The Problem with "If"

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From Rabbi David

Around this time of year lots of Jews take to social media to post some variation on the following:

As Rosh Hashanah approaches I wanted to say that I'm sorry if I hurt anyone or caused anyone pain this past year.

Lovely right? A blanket statement completely devoid of any specifics whatsoever that absolves me of any real apologizing that may be needed.

If you happened to read my message from last week you'll know that - saying "I'm sorry if..." neither acknowledges that another specific person is hurting nor does it take responsibility for contributing to that pain. "I'm sorry if..." may make me feel better but does nothing to advance me down the path of teshuvah - returning/repenting.

As a rabbi, I learned early on that there are no "ifs" when it comes to me having the capacity to cause another person pain. I don't do it intentionally (few of us do). Nonetheless, being involved in the most intimate, joyful and painful moments of a person's life opens me up to making far more mistakes that I would like. For me to say "I'm sorry if..." is to ignore the tremendous responsibility I have to model for others how to do real teshuvah, not to mention - actually doing it myself.

So I won't be posting here or anywhere, "I'm sorry if..." I want to be clear - this doesn't mean that I don't think that I've caused pain to some or even many of you. I'm sure that I have. It only means that I hope that I have already or will have the opportunity to say to you directly "I'm sorry that I hurt you."

Shanah Tovah Umetukah!

A happy and sweet New Year

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