Jewish World Review Sept. 14, 1999 /4 Tishrei, 5760

True confessions

By Yaffa Ganz -- "YOU WON'T BELIEVE THIS," she said. "Really, you won't."

"Sure I will. Just tell me."

She turned and twisted in the chair, jerking her foot back and forth. Her lip was red from the place she had been chewing on it and her eyes were bright with tears.

"Don't get carried away," I said soothingly. "It can't be that bad. After all, it was Rosh Hashana and I'm sure you're intentions were good."

"That's just the problem!" she blurted out. "If it had been any other day of the year it wouldn't have been so awful, but on Rosh Hashana!"

She put her head in her hands.

"So your intentions weren't so good," I went on, searching for some way of calming her. "You're only human, you know. That's why we have Yom Kippur!"

She shuddered. "But don't you understand?" she whispered. "I can't possibly go into Yom Kippur like this. What shall I do?"

"If you'll only tell me what you did, maybe I can think of something," I said.

It turned out that she had a fight with her husband on Rosh Hashana afternoon. After she had been under tremendous pressure at work for two weeks and hadn't even had a chance to buy a new dress or hat for the holidays. After she had been busy with holiday preparations and cooked for a solid week to feed the guests they were having. She hadn't even had time to go out for her early morning walks to enjoy the lovely fall weather. She had happily, willingly, cheerfully stood in the kitchen and cooked.


When rosh Hashana finally arrived, she was a very tired lady indeed, but one full of satisfaction - and expectations. Then, when her husband begged off going with her to Tashlich (he prefered going with the men from his shul rather than, as he said, "turning Tashlich into a Rosh Hashana social affair") she had exploded.

The poor man never knew what hit him. Disagreements, annoyances, unsolved problems, - all the hurts (mostly unintentional) and frustrations of the past year suddenly rose from the grave and found new life. They came pouring out, threatening to drown her stupefied mate.

When he finally managed to get his wits about him, his first reactions was - you guessed it - anger. But being a good, fine type of man and husband, he controlled himself and kept quiet. The only trouble was, so did his wife. Through the rest of Rosh Hashana, through the Tzom Gedalya fast, and through the next five days. Now Yom Kippur was approaching and no one knew quite how to end the deafening silence.

He had, during the week, placed a few perfunctory pecks on her cheek as a trial, to test the temperature. They were balanced by a few perfunctory Good Mornings and Good Nights.

My friend has always been a rather lively type who laughed and sang a lot throughout her day and the kids wondered why the house was now so still. So did their father. For the life of him, he couldn't figure out what had happened.

I sighed. It was the same old problem. Over and over again. Different needs, different languages. What my friend had needed was one of those kisses on the cheek before she lost control, accompanied by an invitation for a walk during the holiday, and/or the promise of dinner in a nice restaurant afterwards. Her anger meant was that she was tired, and was looking forward to finally going out for a walk and a bit of socializing during Tashlich - even though that isn't really what Tashlich is supposed to be about.

Although highly sensitive to her husband's spiritual leanings under normal conditions, this had definitely not been a normal week. In addition to the usual pre-holiday cooking and work, there had also been other family business which had added to the tension. When she tried to explain this to her husband, he replied (justifiably) that he too was often under pressure but he didn't explode.

"He used to say I was vivacious, not explosive," she said. "He used to think it was a wonderful quality I had, to be so bubbly and enthusiastic and full of life and not always cool and rational and under control. He felt that I was so alive...

"Of course I shouldn't have blown up like I did. I know that. And on Rosh Hashana yet."

She groaned again. "But it's Rosh Hashana for him too, isn't it? Why isn't he more understanding, forgiving? Why do I have to be the righteous tzadekes?"

"You don't," I answered. "You can stay angry as long as you like. He's only your husband. So what if he took turns getting up in the middle of the night with you for years of crying or sick babies? So what if he always gets out of bed to make sure you locked the door and always remembers your birthday and goes shopping for you when you're too tired and agrees to all of your bubbly, enthusaistic, vivacious ideas, even whey they're slightly off the wall? So what if he's a marvelous father? And a respected scholar? And a mensh?

"If it will make you happy, you can pout and simmer and steam all you want. Then you can cry your eyes out because you're miserable and he's only human. Is there a man alive who always understands his wife? Even Abraham didn't understand Sarah! It took the Good L-rd Himself to instruct him! Besides, your husband is probably in such a state of shell shock right now that he wouldn't understand even if G-d Himself spoke to him!"

She sat there in agony - my dear, kind, bright, intelligent, lovely and loving, wonderful friend. "So what should I do?" she asked.

"'Fess up," I suggested. "Write him an Al Cheyt --- a confessions of your feminine, matrimonial sins."

"I will not!" she huffed. "It's his fault, not mine!"

"Just a minute. The Al cheyt prayer is all in the plural, remember? Al Cheyt sheh'chatanu - we have sinned! You both messed this one up. You're sorry; he's sorry; everyone's sorry. All you have to do is find a way to say it. Since it's all been said for you in the original version, it should be easy. Use your vivacious imagination."

"OK," she said, rising with great dignity (and a sniff). "I will."

I smiled. When my friend put her imagination to work, the results were always fabulous.

Leiters Sukkah

As I watched her leave, I suddenly understood why anger was, according to the Rabbis, akin to idol worshipping. When we are in the midst of a really good fit, we are so emotionally involved in ourselves that there is simply no room for anyone or anything else.

Not even G-d. It's a pure, unadultered ego trip. I want; I didn't get; I hurt; I am frustrated. I, I, I. And we empathize with ourselves, our feelings, our desires, so thoroughly, that once we're caught up in the eye of an Ego Hurricane, it's hard to get out.

That evening, my friend called. I could hear her smile right through the telephone wires.

"It worked!" she said. "I can always depend on you for a good idea!"

"What did you do?" I asked.

"Just what you told me to. I wrote an Al Cheyt." She gave me a copy. For Domestic Distress, it's almost as good as the original in the prayer book.

FOR THE SINS that we have sinned under the duress of children and cooking and holidays and other household chores. And for the sins we have sinned willingly out of our own pure obstinate ego. And for the sins we have sinned through hardness of heart when softness would have been wiser and more loving.

FOR THE SINS we have committed without knowledge or understanding because we are only mortal, ignorant, blundering and sometimes downright stupid. And for those sins we have sometimes committed with knowledge, which is really horrendous.

FOR THE SINS we have perpetrated through the utterance of our lips (which is where a good deal of our sinning comes from); through harsh speech (which is one of the worst kinds because even when we say we're sorry, we can't really erase the hurt from someone else's soul); and through tipshus hapeh - pure stupidity.

FOR THE SINS of hardheartedness and compulsion - of insisting and being stubborn and highhanded and always right, even when we're not. (And even when we are...)

FOR THE SINS of confession - of saying "OK, I'm Sorry!" when we don't really mean it but we just want the satisfaction of being heroic and long suffering.

AND FOR THE SIN of not loving enough, of not being considerate enough, of not understanding enough.

FOR THESE AND ALL OTHER sins, too numerous to mention, forgive me, love me, bear with me ... as I will, please G-d, do my utmost to forgive you, love you, bear with you.

BECAUSE WE ARE TWO IMPERFECT HALVES of one potentially perfect whole which can, somehow, transcend the sum of its parts - and its sins.

AND BECAUSE I love you (except for when you leave your dirty coffee glasses on my clean counter after dinner for which sin I shall not forgive you because there's no reason you can't remember to put them in the sink! And isn't it a good thing you can't drink coffee on Yom Kippur so that we are precluded from arguing about that particular deed on that particular day?)

And where there is love, there is chessed - benevolence. And when love and chessed come together, there is no room left for Ego and anger and hardness of heart. There is only room for you, and me, and G-d.

Yaffa Ganz is the award winning author of Cinnamon and Myrrh and All Things Considered (Mesorah Publications N.Y.). She has written more than forty Jewish juvenile titles including Sand and Stars --- a 2000 year saga of Jewish history for teen readers. You may contact her by clicking here.


©1999, Yaffa Ganz