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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"The Day of Atonement Does Not Atone Until they Have Made Peace with One Another

by Joe Pereles

“For transgressions against God, the Day of Atonement atones, but for transgressions of one human being against another, the Day of Atonement does not atone until they have made peace with one another.” --Mishnah

How appropriate is this sentence in my life this year. On October 3rd Kol Nidre eve and in my mind the evening of the most sacred day in the Jewish year, my nephew is getting married. You are probably saying: “Are you kidding?” If fact, when my brother-in-law (who was raised Jewish) called Brenda to tell her about the wedding plans, Brenda asked Tom (name changed to protect the innocent) how he could have allowed that date to be chosen? His response was that the kids picked the date and Brenda then asked, did they even bother to look at a calendar since even non-Jewish calendars show Yom Kippur as a holiday and that Steven (our nephew) should have asked what the significance of a Jewish holiday was on the date tentatively selected for the wedding. No, they didn’t look at the date was Tom’s response and Steven isn’t even Jewish so it’s not an issue for him and his fiancé. The problem with that answer was that when Tom and Betsy (Tom’s wife with her name changed) got married, they told the rabbi who married them that their children would in fact be raised Jewish. That didn’t happen and Steven and his sisters were raised with no religion. Brenda asked Tom about the rest of your family; that is, the Jewish side who will be invited to the wedding. Tom’s reply was “they will have to make a decision on what they want to do; go to Jewish services or go to the wedding.”

Needless to say, I was quite upset and that’s putting it mildly. I mean I just finished 3 years as Temple President and to schedule a wedding on the night of Kol Nidre was entirely unacceptable to me. At first I said I wasn’t even going to go to the ceremony just because it was so insensitive of Tom not to put his foot down and tell Steven to pick another Friday night to get married as he was being exceedingly insensitive to his Jewish family members. I knew that Tom was not going to get in the middle of this issue as I really don’t think he felt that it was his place to put his foot down and ask that another Friday night be selected for the wedding. And that to me was unforgivable in that Tom made it very clear that he didn’t give a hoot about this Jewish side of the family. Well, after thinking about the first sentence in this blog and asking myself what my father (of blessed memory) would do, I decided that I would “forgive” Tom even though he probably doesn’t think he did anything wrong and therefore doesn’t need forgiveness and attend the wedding ceremony. I’ll be able to make the 2nd service at Shaare Emeth and I wouldn’t stay for the reception as that would interfere with my fasting.

My decision to forgive my brother-in-law and his family was made easier after I learned about the death of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic distance runner and World War II veteran who survived not only 47 days on a raft in the Pacific Ocean, but then endured two years in a Japanese prison camp where he was repeatedly tortured by a Japanese guard. If you haven’t read the book called “Unbroken”, you should. You see, Mr. Zamperini forgave his Japanese tormentor and tried to meet with his tormentor in 1988, but was refused access to him. If Mr. Zamperini could forgive, then I could forgive and try to accommodate the wedding plans so long as I was able to make Kol Nidre services.

I am quite sure that each of you has a person that you could forgive for transgressions that they may have made against you, whether they believe that they did anything wrong like my brother-in-law Tom. I urge you to forgive . I wish you an easy fast and hope that you are able to find or give forgiveness this year.

Joe Pereles is the Immediate Past President of the Congregation and has been a member of the Temple since 1980.

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