I suggest that Elul can also be a time to approach others not only to beg forgiveness, but to give thanks. You see, there is a value in Judaism called hakarat ha-tov, recognition of the good. It may very well include two ideas:
- That we should recognize good that exists everywhere in our world, in ourselves and in one another.
- That we should acknowledge good that another has done for us.
So, this year, I am initiating the practice of hakarat ha-tov, acknowledging the good, as my new minhag, my new custom, for every Elul to follow. Since this has been the year in which I have reconnected with literally dozens of people from my past through social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, my hakarat ha-tov list is going to go pretty far back in my history. But I do owe gratitude to those that I never thanked, or didn't thank quite enough. I hope this list inspires others to adopt the practice of hakarat ha-tov, whether as part of the High Holiday season, or year-round.
Sorry for the long list...I have 55 years to make up. Here goes:
- Thanks to the Hebrew School teacher - probably long deceased - who taught me aleph bet (in those days, aleph bais). If it wasn't for her, I couldn't have become a Jewish educator and rabbi
- Thanks to the kids who were my friends, even when I was self-righteous and arrogant
- Thanks to my parents. Their lives were not easy, their parenting imperfect. But they invested in me to the best of their abilities
- Thanks to the high school teacher who taught me that Torah was not just rules about what you can't do, but is wisdom meant to apply to real life situations
- Thanks to a friend who made a comment that only I remember; a brief sentence that said: Dude, life is not just about you. Changed my life.
- Thanks to people who don't even remember that they suggested I read books that would make a difference in my career and in my personal outlook. You were right. I did need to read what you suggested -- Judaism as a Civilization, the JPS Torah Commentary, Yehuda Amichai's poetry, among others
- Thanks to people who shied away from me when I was younger, then inexplicably reached out to me for friendship decades later. We lost so much time, but you're important in my life today
- Thanks to my students and to congregants who tolerated my inexperience and allowed me to learn from teaching them
- Thanks to my teachers in my rabbinical program and in several rounds of university courses of study. I still quote you and your wisdom
- Thanks to my wife and kids. Like my students, you tolerated (and still tolerate) my inexperience and gave me the privelege of being your husband and father
- Thanks to you, who read my blog and allow me to believe that I have something to teach and share. Most importantly, thanks to those who comment on the blog, helping me to deepen and correct my thoughts.
Who do YOU need to thank?