24 September 2006

Holidays 5767

A.D. Freudenheim, The Editor

It seems a cruel bit of irony that the moments when families might naturally gather together to celebrate the passage of time, also happen to be the moments when such gatherings (or their planning) are the most stressful, tense, and anxiety-producing. This is certainly no more or less true for the Jewish High Holidays than for any other important moment, from Thanksgiving to Christmas to birthdays.

We all have our needs and wants: to see certain people, to observe or mark an event in a specific way, to be reminded of particular things about our life. We all want what we want, or we don’t want what we don’t want, and either way we tend to resist change. As I wrote a few years ago, assumptions about the “shared goals and values” within families can create many unfortunate problems, especially around holidays, and these issues can be hard to discuss openly and difficult to address. When you want something, really want it, it is hard to break away from those emotions and see another person’s perspective.

The flip-side to such holiday strife is the opportunity these events (should) bring: to work through the problems, the stress and anxiety, the competing and conflicting desires – and then to overcome them, to reconcile, to forgive and accept, and to find that necessary peace within ourselves. This is always important; for Jews it is especially important now, during this time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when we are called upon to examine our lives and deeds for ourselves, and to think about how our words and actions may have hurt those around us.

It is not easy; saying “I’m sorry” rarely is. But the feeling at the end, when we can look back at a bad situation and feel better about it, should make it worthwhile. And maybe, for the next time, we can learn: to take a deep breath in advance, to count to 10, to wait and to think, and to seek out that opportunity for conversation and compromise, and find the shared solutions that respect everyone’s feelings, from the very beginning.


Some previous holiday-related columns:
2004, “Life, At First”; 2001, “The Jewish High Holidays 2001/5762” and “Communities in Question”; 2000, “A Note of Thanksgiving”


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