Daniel C. Robbins


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Who is a G-d like you,
Forgiving sin
And sending away evil?
G-d will take us back in love;
You will cover up our wrongs,
You will hurl all our sins
Into the deep of the sea.

Forever, G-d, your word stands firm in heaven.


At this time of year we often focus on what is wrong with us: what we have done wrong, what we are afraid of doing wrong in the coming year, and forgiving others for the wrong they have done us. All these wrongs we tend to see as the result of faults with ourselves -- elements of ourselves that we think need changing, that aren't "up to snuff." Past years you may have stood in this very place and recited some litany of things you did badly. With each fault cast into the water you probably felt both a little humbler and a little relived to be free of the fault.

I want to try something a little bit different this year. Perhaps we can actually celebrate our faults. No, it's not some attempt to sidestep responsibility. Instead, it is an attempt to forge true connections to the people around us. Here's what I mean: Let us ask ourselves what it takes to have connections with our fellow human beings. Typically our answer to this question is full of what we do for other people, what we give, and how we can help out. It is all do, do, do. Fix this, right that, be here for someone, and then take care of something for someone else. The people around us, our friends and family, flatten out and become lists of needs that have to be satisfied.

So, how do we maintain a relationship, a sense of empathy to those we most want to feel close to? Here is one suggestion: In a little while you will each go off to find a little private space by the river, to collect your thoughts and try to marshal the next year in all of its enormity. Perhaps, right before we toss each of our faults, wrongs, and misdeeds in the river we can for a moment hold each one and realize that there is a universality to our fallibility. There's a pretty good chance that the person next to you will be casting some of the same misgivings into the river. Those acts or thoughts of the past year that we feel bad about are part of what makes us human. It’s a package deal.

Connection is about seeing that every one of us has some brand of hurts, childlike desires, vulnerabilities, petty wants, and the occasional bought of inconsolability. If we don’t see these as part of ourselves – part of who we are, we close ourselves to the world. How can we be the recipient of compassion and giving if we are not honest about our own stumbles and hesitations? In order to feel true connection to others, we need to be able to recognize our own weaknesses, our own fallibility and then recognize and accept those same weakness and fallibility in others.

Connection is not just about action or giving -- it is also about seeing ourselves in others. So I think its alright if along with our regrets we also mix in a little celebration: That when all is said and done, our mishmash of sometimes misguided desires and altruistic determination makes us each richer and closer to everyone else in this world.

-- Daniel C. Robbins