As almost everyone Jewish, and many non-Jewish people know, the holiday of Yom Kippur is rapidly approaching. This Sunday night when this solemn day begins, Jews all over the world will celebrate in whatever fashion they deem most appropriate to them. I wanted to speak to a theme that was different than most of the themes of the day, and somewhat unfortunately I found it to be a very easy thing to do. The theme I wish to focus on is that of personal responsibility.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not by any means saying that there is a mass neglect of individual accountability. For me to do so would not only be overly judgmental, it would be contrary to the theme of this piece. For if I am to make the point I wish to make, it is very simple to do so. All I need to do is look to myself first and foremost.
We live in a world where people are not only prone to finding blame, they are obsessed with it. In so many of the discussions we have nowadays, finding culpability in what ails our communities, countries and planet seems to be our number one priority. The tendency to do so is so great here in America that it has begun to resemble the beginnings of an actual Civil War. But I present the following question. Are we correct for assigning blame to those we find responsible for the problems we’re exposed to on almost a daily basis? Well the truth is that we have every right as human beings to use our cognitive abilities and moral compasses to reach conclusions and take whatever action we feel can be helpful in bettering our world. That being said, as Yom Kippur approaches, I for one realize that there is only one place to start this process ethically and honestly. That is by looking first to myself and my own behaviors and actions.
The reality is that if our priorities were to look at ourselves first we would be collectively much better off than we are today. Again, since I want to maintain some semblance of credibility I will look only to myself and mention those things I feel I must focus on before I look to change anyone else. For me personally, my strong belief in God helps to keep me humble. That being said, it’s far too easy for someone to be pleased with themselves, and I for one know that I will concentrate on having a greater amount of humility. My personal belief that God is the boss, so to speak, is enough of a basis for me to realize that ultimately the power does not lie with me.
I will do my best to be better to my fellow human being. Not just those who are like me, be it religiously, racially or philosophically, but all my fellow human beings. On Sunday night until Monday evening I will spend much, if not the majority of the day making my plea to God that I will be forgiven for those actions I’ve done wrong and for anything I have done to hurt others. Imagine the greatness of a world in which everyone tried to improve on that issue alone. I will watch my words. I will make every attempt to use my voice to say things that are positive and helpful, and use as little of my time speaking ill of others, something that always breathes life into negativity.
I will do my best to give of my time and effort to those who need my help. If I am not qualified to do so based on lack of qualifications, I will do my best to improve upon my qualities and work towards being someone who can make more of a difference in the future than I do today.
Lastly, I will look to set a good example. While I do not know if I will always succeed in doing so, partially because so many of us have varying opinions, I begin today by setting the example of looking to myself rather than to someone else in regard to what needs improvement. If we all looked to ourselves first we might just find we have much less time to blame others for everything we feel is wrong, and with any luck we will help others do the same. If we want a better world, we need to start by bettering our personal worlds, something we can only do that by bettering ourselves.
For anyone I did wrong or for anyone I caused any pain in the past year I ask your forgiveness, and I wish that we all see a healthy, safe, productive and happy year ahead.
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