On the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, I’m on the Shaker Lakes bridge, hanging out with the Reconstructionist crowd. The Reconstructionist Jews are here for the Tashlikh ceremony. (Tashlikh is Hebrew for “casting off” – the symbolic casting-away-of-sins ceremony. Participants toss crumbs into a river or lake.)
I’m not a Reconstructionist, but I know a lot of the shul members.
I see others too. The guy who comes every day with his dachshunds, and the paraplegic guy, Brian. I run into a Swedish-American who is a convert. He says, “The Swedes taught the Jews about herring when the Swedes conquered Poland.” Good info.
The Recons leave, and a chavurah (small worship group) from a large Conservative synagogue comes through. A member tells me about a bar mitzvah in Minnesota that was too loud. Tell me about it.
The Recons at 3:30, the chavurah at 4:30.
I could go to Park Synagogue at 4:45 p.m., but that would be too much tash-likhing.
The Park Synagogue rabbi, at the morning service, had said, “It’s easy to do the right thing when you’re in shul, but the big test is the day after Rosh Hashanah — the days after the holidays. The routine days. The days when your wife shrinks your favorite sweatshirt, or you run a stop sign.”
Question, rabbi: Am I allowed to be bad on Rosh Hashanah — before I start to be good?
I get a phone message from a new tenant Rosh Hashanah afternoon. He has yet to move in. He needs to talk to me.
I tell my wife, “The guy doesn’t want to move in. I can smell it.”
I can’t resist calling him back. It’s late Rosh Hashanah. Around 6 p.m. I can do business at 6 p.m.
The guy is going to catch a break. I am not going to be vainly ambitious, grossly envious, insanely selfish, or indifferent to him.
“My mother is very sick,” he says. “I can’t move in.” He is 25. His mother is very sick like my mother is very sick; my mother is dead. The guy is lying. Not many 25 year olds have very sick mothers. I could ask him what exactly his mother has. I could ask him for a letter from the doctor. Instead, I say, “I’m sorry to hear about your mother,” and I tell him he won’t get his security back because he kept the apartment off the market for five weeks.
He says, “How about half back?”
I say no.
I have heard too many young people talk about their very sick mothers.
“My God, the soul you have given me is pure.” That’s in the Tashlikh prayer.
My soul is about 49-percent pure. That’s as good as it gets in the real estate biz. The kid found a cheaper place down the street, or moved in with his girl friend. That’s my guess.
Footnote: This was Rosh Hashanah, 2010.
ROSH HASHANAH PRAYER
There are risks that go along with being active.
Don’t be static. You’ll have plenty time for that when you’re gone.
The devil (yetzer hora) is always working. He don’t take no vacation.
Adapt to a colostomy, mastectomy, prostate surgery, the inability to walk, depression.
Don’t focus on what you’ve lost.
Focus on what’s good and what’s right in front of you: your children, your parents, the memories of your parents, your relatives, your friends, your community.
Life is not for the weak-hearted. Display some willpower! Do not take the short view. Seasons come and go. Get used to it.
This year we will not get wrapped up in things evil, harmful, or petty.
The health of our body is not just our singular “body,” but it’s our “bodies” — the people we work with, the people we love, the people we hang out with, the people we pray with.
Social isolation is not good. We’re all connected, particularly on days like Rosh Hashanah.
This is a day of aspiration and hope.
It’s our only hope.
Do not dwell on the bad. That is too easy.
Aspire to change. Focus.