For the Sin of Hard-Heartedness

2020-09-18 – Tonight begins the Days of Awe: the 10 days from Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) through Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). It is a time during which we make (in the words of Alcoholics Anonymous) “a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” (I like the way AA puts it. This is the AA 4th step.)

On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, we confess the sins that we discover in ourselves. The confessional is a prayer called “Al Chet” or “For the Sin.” This is a community confessional. In public, the entire congregation confesses to a laundry list of sins. And the list is mundane. (You can see the list on the Chabad website.) It is for everyone. You can undoubtedly find many things on this list that apply to you. You don’t have to be a mass murderer to qualify.

Even though the Al Chet isn’t said until Yom Kippur, I have always thought that it is a convenient checklist with which to conduct the searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Bad memories are the enemies of searching and fearless moral inventories. The checklist helps.

In past years, I’ve focused more on the sins that we have committed inadvertently. Most of us are more careless than we are evil.

But this year, a different item has caught my eye: the sin we have committed by hard heartedness. The sad state of our nation is not just the result of carelessness, though indifference allows it. It is the result of hard-heartedness—and it’s not just the other guy.

Did you ever want to “teach someone a lesson”?

Did you every want to “own” someone?

Did you ever begrudge another person’s need, particularly those who have less than you?

Did you ever laugh at compassion? Or belittle someone who offered a helping hand?

Did you ever act tough toward someone who is weak?

Did you ever try to solve someone’s problem when all they asked was for you to listen to them?

Did you ever sneer when someone apologized to you? Or refuse to apologize when we’ve done someone wrong and we know it?

Are you laughing at me right now for saying these things?

These are the questions we all have to ask ourselves before Yom Kippur.

לשנה טובה ומתוקה

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2 responses to “For the Sin of Hard-Heartedness

  1. I looked up cheshbon nefesh online and found the following description by Rabbi Julian Sinclair:
    Taking a cheshbon nefesh is one of the religious practices recommended at this time of year. It means an “accounting of the soul.” We examine the credit and debit columns of our spiritual lives, where we’ve made a profit, so to speak, and where a loss, where we’ve built up capital, and where we’ve depleted it. With the balance sheet before us, we can draw up a viable business plan to stay spiritually solvent in the coming year.

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