In Yom Kippur: Rabbi Teaches Meaning of Sorry Without the but (Part 1 of 4), Rabbi Matthew Soffer of Temple Israel of Boston taught the introductory meaning of saying “sorry” without adding the tag “but.” This article continues his thoughts.
“I am sorry BUT…” Rabbi Soffer asked congregants to raise their hands if they have ever said in the last year, “I am sorry, but…”
The rabbi continued that each person in the congregation has a “but” problem. He made light of the situation with the play on words. Then, he went on to give a definition.
He asked the congregation if anyone knew what a CONJUNCTION is. After some suggestions, he confirmed the definition.
He said that a conjunction is a word used to to coordinate words in the same clause or connect clauses or sentences (e.g., but, and, etc.). Conjunctions are “joiners,” they connect one thing to another.
“I had a cold, but I was still able to write a sermon.” “The Pats showed up and Gronk Played.” “The Pats showed up with Gronk, but…” He said that he did not need to finish that one.
Conjunctions are joiners. They are IN-BETWEEN two things. And because they are in-between two things, they must be used the right way. “But” has to mean “But,” and “And” has to mean “And.” Or else there are problems.
Rabbi Soffer continued with his Yom Kippur teaching of the meaning of “I’m sorry” without resorting to “but.” He asked the congregation to think about the difference between these two sentences: “I enjoy spending time with you, and all your friends are so different.” Or “I enjoy spending time with you, but all your friends are so different.”
Conjunctions matter. But getting back to “but”… Rabbi Soffer asked the congregation who could tell him what “BUT” means, as a conjunction.
He asked the congregation to imagine the plight of the conjunction “but.” He asked them to think about being the conjunction “but” and how it would “feel” about being used in a sentence with the phrase “I’m sorry, BUT…”
“I’m sorry, but you’re annoying.”
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t do my homework.”
“I’m sorry, but yes, you’re a conjunction.”
Rabbi Soffer reflected that a conjunction being used in the phrase “I’m sorry but,” might feel sick. It would feel infected. It would feel like it had conjunctivitis.
He said that the congregation should count themselves lucky to be persons, not conjunctions.
BUT…a person who uses “I’m sorry but.”
BUT: You’re not alone.
He asked the rhetorical question about everyone using some kind of false apologies. He continued that there are “a ton of fake apologies polluting [the English] language.”
He told the congregation that they know them:
“It’s just that…”
“I’m sorry if…
He said that one of his favorites is: “The thing is.” (Asking, What thing?)
“I’m sorry for my poor choice of words.”
“Mistakes were made.”
“I’m sorry if I behaved in a way that made you think I should apologize.”
In Yom Kippur: Rabbi Teaches Meaning of Sorry Without the But (Part 3 of 4), Rabbi Soffer’s story continues.
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Yom Kippur: Rabbi Teaches Meaning of Sorry Without the But (Part 1 of 4)