Yom Kippur: Rabbi Teaches Meaning of Sorry Without the But (Part 4 of 4)

Yom Kippur

This article continues from Yom Kippur: Rabbi Teaches Meaning of Sorry Without the But (Part 3 of 4), in which Rabbi Matthew Soffer of Temple Israel of Boston teaches what it means to say “sorry” without adding “but.”

Yom Kippur
Rabbi Matthew Soffer

In Parts 1 through 3, Rabbi Soffer discusses how difficult it is for people to say the words “I am sorry” directly to one another, even after a catastrophic situation. He gave the example from the Book of Genesis of the inadvertent and attempted murder of Isaac by his father Abraham.

The Bible never says that Abraham apologized. Rabbi Soffer gave other examples from Genesis that prove how it has been difficult for people to apologize since the beginning of written time, according to Judaism. Here is the final part of his sermon from Yom Kippur.

Part 4:

Some might call that hypocrisy. Rabbi Soffer relays that a colleague recently told him a story about someone who said to him, almost in a boasting way:

“I never go to temple. Maybe you’ve noticed, rabbi?”
“Yeah, I have noticed that,” said the rabbi.
“Well, the reason I don’t go is because there are so many hypocrites there.”
The rabbi replied, “Oh don’t worry about that– there’s always room for one more.”

This is not hypocrisy, however; it is just being human. Each person has got some “I am sorry BUT” stuff to work out. Rabbi Soffer continues in his teaching of the meaning of the words “I am sorry” without the “but”:

Apology takes an odd type of strength.
Apology takes the willingness to see weakness, or failure;
Apology takes vulnerability.
Apology takes humility, giving space to someone else.
Apology takes guts.
Apology takes risk.

But the most amazing and sacred part about it is that somehow it does not destroy the person saying the apology! Pretty much any other act that you would describe with the words “risk, failure, weakness” sounds like it will be harmful!

Not so with apology. Somehow, breaking down, opening up, and saying “I am sorry” has the opposite effect.

Apology is a power-tool in the Jewish toolbox, if only each person has the muscle to pick it up. And here is the thing: EVERYONE HAS THAT POWER.

The Torah does not begin and end with Genesis, with piles of “I’m sorry buts.” After Genesis, the People of the Book get Exodus. And in Exodus the people move beyond, “I’m sorry BUT.”

Exodus is the story that is read while sitting around a table, together. That is not accidental.

Exodus is when people went from making mistakes ALONE to being TOGETHER, a community. Exodus is a book about another conjunction: AND. AND is the ultimate connector.

Imagine being the conjunction “AND.” This has the effect of walking around trying to hold everyone’s hand.
“And” is an organizer. “And” is a leader. “And” is like Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

“AND” is a MULTIPLIER, as in “You AND I,”
Temple Israel AND the Jewish people,
the Jewish People AND Humanity,
Humanity AND God.

On Yom Kippur, it is imperative to face humanity’s conjunctivitis.
It is important to use the words BUT and AND in the right ways:
to become better people.

AND – The word that signifies that “WE’RE NOT ALONE, we have each other.”
BUT – The word that signifies that “WE CAN CHANGE.”

“We can change, AND we NEED each other.”

Apology is the SYMBOLIC CONJUNCTION.
So in order to put it to good use,
No if, ands, or buts.
Just the three simple, sacred words (“and let’s say them together”):
“I
Am
Sorry….
Period.”

This concludes Rabbi Soffer’s Yom Kippur sermon teaching about the meaning of “sorry” without including the word “but.”

Sermon by Rabbi Matthew Soffer
As relayed by congregant and author Fern Remedi-Brown

Previous related articles by the author:
Passover Changes Since Pre-Nazi Time
Easter in an Interfaith Marriage
Holocaust Remembered by Whom? Yom HaShoah is Sunday
Islam Unveiled for Jews and Christians
Rosh HaShanah: What Is It?
Yom Kippur: Rabbi Teaches Meaning of Sorry Without the but (Part 1 of 4)
Yom Kippur: Rabbi Teaches Meaning of Sorry Without the but (Part 2 of 4)
Yom Kippur: Rabbi Teaches Meaning of Sorry Without the But (Part 3 of 4)

Sources:
Temple Israel of Boston website
About Yom Kippur (From the Mishnah)
Yom Kippur Guide

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