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09/12/2023 06:38:00 PM


A world where compassion and understanding reign - Shanah Tovah!

I shared a version of this with the congregation last year. The version below is to be printed in this week’s Jewish Herald Voice. Still timely, I believe. Shanah tovah!
Two-Sides of God
Once a couple of years ago I was running late for the airport and, even though it was before 7:30 in the morning, roof repair was being done on my neighbor’s house. One of the drivers had parked in a way that blocked the street and seemed incapable of moving. In some anxiety I crossed over by driving slowly over the lawn of two neighbors on the other side of the street. I park on my grass all the time at my house, and there were no shrubs or plants, so I did not think twice about it. I made my flight and that was that. Or so I thought.
About a week later I was taking a walk when one of the neighbors – who never introduced himself or greeted me in the two and a half years we had been in our home – ran out the door and started shouting at me, “Do you have something you want to tell me?” He was clearly angry, but I did not think he was speaking to me. He was. He told me he had me on video tape ruining his lawn and that he wanted to file a police report. He also told me if I did it again, he would call the police. I honestly did not know what he was talking about until much later when it all came back to me. (I think he also said something to the effect that just because we don’t care about our lawn – there are always leaves – I should not harm his.) I apologized, saying I don't recall what he said I did – because at the time I did not – but that I was sorry. He told me if I ever went on his lawn again there would be hell to pay.
A couple of days later I was walking, and I saw the other neighbor, a man who had moved in just a couple of weeks ago. I went up and introduced myself, apologized for driving on his front part of his lawn and offered to pay for damages. He told me three things: (1) He saw the video and was not sure who it was who drove on his lawn; (2) the damage was negligible, and the roofing company already repaired any grass damage; (3) if I were guilty, I should consider it a welcome to the neighborhood present. Then we spoke about football.
I share this story to demonstrate that there are choices we make in how we respond to events. I am mortified that I upset the first neighbor but had no idea what I did was wrong, to the point that I did not even remember doing it. How often do we upset others and have no clue? I won’t do it again! (At least I’ll try.)  But the grace and compassion of the second neighbor is what sticks out. Same car (allegedly), same street, same neighborhood, but very different response.
When we pray to God on the New Year, we ask that God’s judgmental side will be eclipsed by God’s compassionate side. It is not only God who makes that choice. I am grateful for the godliness that exists in a world where compassion and understanding reign.

Wed, February 21 2024 12 Adar I 5784