Overcoming Helpaphobia: Sermon for Parashat Yitro 1-25-19

It can be hard to ask for help. When we do, there is a social contract that develops between the asker and the helper. One has to be willing to help, and the other has to be clear with the request.

For example,

Some time ago, in a Temple not unlike this one, the rabbi goes to the parking lot after services. He sees Mrs. Mendelsohn hunched over staring at the ground and pacing. She goes back and forth. The rabbi calls out to her, “What on Earth are you doing Mrs. Mendelsohn?” Without even looking up, she tells the rabbi not to worry. She couldn’t possibly bother him. Mrs. Mendelsohn, who is getting up in years continues to pace, her head pointed down. Clearly something is wrong. The rabbi knows he can’t leave Mrs. Mendelsohn alone in the parking lot, on Shabbat. He approaches her again, “Dear Mrs. Mendelsohn, what is bothering you?” Whatever it is, let me help you. “Oh, I couldn’t possibly do that,” she says. “You have a family, you are busy, you need to get home. I’ll be okay.” But the rabbi knows, he would not be much of a person, let alone a rabbi if he just leaves her there in the parking lot. So, he insists. “Please, whatever it is, you must let me help you.”

“Fine,” she says. “The ring from my late husband Saul fell off my finger.”

The rabbi immediately dropped to his knees, in his suit, crawling on the ground inspecting every of the pavement. But to no avail. The told Mrs. Mendelsohn how sorry he was that he couldn’t find it. “Are you sure you lost it here?” he asked.

She said, “Actually it fell off over by the bushes.”

The rabbi was stunned, “Then why are you looking over here?”

She said, “Ach, you want me to look over there where the light is terrible?”

It is a silly story, but there is much to unpack. Mrs. Mendelsohn was embarrassed about losing her ring and did not want to admit she had limitations. She failed to understand that some people genuinely want to assist out of benevolence. It does not have to be a rabbi. It could be a cantor. Or it could be any one of us, any single person with a caring heart. More often than not, a person’s desire to help is truly benevolent, and furthermore free from judgment. It is something we can only learn when we allow for help, as Mrs. Mendelsohn finally did.

Then she had a hard difficulty instructing the rabbi about her needs, letting him search in the wrong place. She just could not bring herself to give in completely.

Let’s face it. People just don’t like to admit they need help.

The great hero of the Torah, Moses, was no different. In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Yitro, Moses behaves very much like Mrs. Mendelsohn. His father in law Jethro comes to meet him in the wilderness. Following the Exodus from Egypt and the events at the Sea, he sings the praises for God and then observes what Moses is doing. What he sees is a man overwhelmed by responsibility. Moses spends all day attending to the concerns and disputes of the people. He listens and makes judgments meanwhile handling all the other responsibilities of leadership. He tells his son-in-law, “the task is too heavy for you. You cannot do it alone.”

To Jethro, it is plain to see that Moses needs help but does not know how to ask.

Social psychologist Heidi Grant believes this human tendency not to ask for help is hard wired into our evolutionary DNA. It comes from our need to be social creatures, to be accepted, to be seen as capable and useful, and thereby not to be rejected. So, asking for help can trigger “psychological responses akin to pain.” Our stomachs tighten. Our muscles tense. Our heads ache. This is all supposed to protect us from being vulnerable to loss of social standing.

Dr. Grant points out “[It is] No wonder… that we avoid asking for help like the plague…. The plague might seem less dangerous in comparison.”

So, we clam up. And say nothing. The Rashbam, points out that the Torah uses the same language to describe Moses’s stress as is used to describe the builders of the Tower of Babel. The translation says worn out, but what it really means is paralyzed by fear to the point of being rendered speechless

The Catch 22 is, without help, you might not succeed in a task or you may not fulfill a need, and that too can inflict our social standing. So, it’s usually better to get help than to flail and fail. The commentator Abraham Ibn Ezra writes about Moses that, without help, he is like a leaf, removed from its tree as it withers and falls to the ground.

The good news is, the negative outcomes are rare. In fact, a study determined that, when asking for help, positive outcomes are two times more likely than people expect. As leaves, we can count on our community to be a tree that nurtures us and helps us to thrive.

In the Torah, Jethro, is such a tree, an unsung hero of the Jewish people. For if not for him, Moses may have caved under the weight of responsibility. He overcomes his fears and allows Jethro to devise an efficient leadership plan. Not only do the people thrive under this plan, but it makes Moses an even better leader than before. It is an example of how, although we think of getting help as a weakness, it is actually a strength. As a leaf, connected to Jethro, Moses flourishes.

Fortunately, Jethro knew just what to do. As I said at the outset, help is a social contract between asker and helper. The helper must pay attention to the needs and respond accordingly. In the story of Mrs. Mendelsohn’s ring, the rabbi made the wrong assumptions. In his eagerness to show how menschy he was, he never actually asked where to look. He just dove to the ground.

To truly be one who helps, it demands that we respond with more than kindness. We must also be sincere, detailed and thorough as well. The follow through is even more important than the offer. It ensures we will genuinely provide for our fellow man in time of need. And the more we do for others, the more we diminish the stigma of asking.

Every single one of us has times in our lives when we need help. We must know, especially in sacred communities such as ours, that it is a strength to turn to our neighbor and ask them to make us even stronger. We also must be willing to step up for our neighbors in their time of need, to be attentive and caring, sensitive and kind, so that they will be glad they turned to us for help. Even better if we are like Jethro, who saw Moses so burdened that he could not even articulate his needs and stepped forward to see him through.

So, when Federal Workers go without pay, we step up. When our friends get hurt or fall ill, we come to their aid. When someone in our community loses a job or falls on hard times, we say, we are there to comfort them and aid in their time of need. The list goes on and on.

Let us conclude with this prayer:

May we all, as members of this congregation, and as citizens of our city, state, and country, in these difficult times for so many in their work and in their personal lives, establish an environment where we are strong enough to ask for help, and where we are also wise enough to give it.

A Nation Stuck in Twilight – A Derash on Parashat Bo

*** When I wrote and delivered this sermon last Friday, January 12, I had no idea one of our members would be inspired to begin collecting and distributing funds to federal workers who are not receiving paychecks. Following the leadership of Dr. Frank Miller, who investigated the proper legal methods to distribute needed resources to federal employees, Mizpah has raised nearly $3,000 for airport workers, given in the form of gift cards. Now other faith organizations in Chattanooga and in other cities around the country have followed our lead.***

It is strange that the most dangerous time of day to drive is at twilight. The sky is getting dark enough that it is harder to see, and it is still light enough, that headlights have little effect. Then there is also when you happen to be heading west, into the setting sun which can be blinding. Twilight, that mysterious stretch of time between light and dark, is the time when it is hardest to see. It is no wonder that twilight is a time prone to superstition, with all sorts of magic and witchcraft associated with it. It is a time of day that defies logic. It is a time of day that his hard to understand.

There is a Jewish folktale about the origin of twilight. It begins with the arrival of light and dark on the first day of creation. These two opposites clash like jealous brothers, a precursor to perhaps to Cain and Abel. The quarrel between light and dark is about which should dominate the sky. They push back and forth against each other, each making their case before God who, like a good parent, eventually allows them to settle it on their own.  In the end, they are at a stalemate. With no compromise, light remains in the day, and dark remains at night, and in that space where they clashed, where light and dark left a residue of their skirmish, we are left with a visual no-man’s land called twilight.

In an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David cynically identified this kind of result as a compromise. As he says, “A good compromise is when both parties are dissatisfied.” I am not sure that is really what I want to believe or teach about good compromise, but it definitely describes what happens when two sides dig in their heels to the point where, no matter what, the end result will be unsatisfactory, not just to the two parties, but to everyone who is affected by the outcome.

We encounter this sort of “compromise” in the Torah portion this week, parashat Bo. It is just after the ninth plague. Egypt has emerged from three days of complete darkness, and Pharaoh makes a concession to Moses: “Go worship your God,” he says. “Take your people and your children, but leave the animals behind.” Moses finds this unacceptable. For one, we know this is not complete freedom, only permission to worship. But Moses sees something more, something sinister in what Pharaoh says, for he knows worship, at least at this time, means offerings of livestock. No livestock. No worship. So Moses makes a counter offer.

He demands not only the Israelites take their livestock, but they will also take livestock from the Pharaoh. You can imagine how the Pharaoh felt about this. It was a non-starter. They would be at an impasse. The Torah does give us some rationale for Moses’s brazen demand. He says, “We do not know yet what God will demand from us. We will only know when we get there.” According to the commentary of Rashi, Moses is genuinely concerned that God will want backpay for all of the sacrifices they did not make while they were slaves. He thinks God may actually ask for more livestock than they have. He wants to avoid that at all costs. So he makes the big ask. Pharaoh’s heart gets hardened, and in the residue of their conflict, the tenth plague comes. An innocent generation of first born Egyptians is wiped out.

Last week, in Torah study, we talked about the way God wants to set up Pharaoh all along, plotting each of the 10 plagues as a demonstration of strength, turning Egypt into a straw man, as a warning for all who might choose to mess with the people of Israel. Many of our commentaries support this idea. However, our tradition also commands us to recognize the suffering of others, even our enemies. We are taught to regret the tragic loss of life. On some level, that means we share the responsibility for what happens, and we might ask ourselves, “Could the collateral damage, the deaths of the firstborn Egyptians, have been avoided?”

Based on what Rashi says, that Moses was worried they would not have enough livestock with which to worship, we catch a clue that the death may have been avoidable. In the Talmud, we find a teaching that would have eased Moses’s worry. It says, “According to the camel is the burden.” In other words, based on one’s strength or capacity to give is the request that will be made. That means God would only ask for offerings according to the people’s capacity. No more. This idea will be advanced when manna is given as food. Manna will have a magical property. However little or much one eats, he will be satisfied. So God will not request of the Israelites to endure any more hunger than they can handle. And Moses really should have anticipated that. He did not have to push for Egyptians’ livestock too. And in the end, there was a stalemate. Like with story about light and dark, a disaster was left behind. It was a time of twilight when no one could see clearly, when no one was truly happy.

Nothing good can come out of a stalemate. There is collateral damage all around. When the compromise leaves everyone miserable and without hope for moving forward, it feels like we are trapped in twilight. In the legend of light and dark, each one could have settled for the even split of 12 hours per day for each one. However, in the push for that 13th hour or more, they fell into a trap, and took the whole world with them.

I don’t want to be too political, but yes, I am thinking about “The shutdown.” You all know where I stand. But when it comes to stalemate or compromise, it is usually best to accept the even split, or the closest thing to it, rather than push for the extra thing. People are hurting in our world. It is now and it is real, 800,000 furloughed or workers unpaid for their time. This goes against a fundamental belief in Judaism that you do not hold a worker’s wages from them, and worse, it is an avoidable crisis. Like Moses wanting more livestock than he actually needed, we are bogged down discussing an extra thing, and everyone’s hearts have been hardened by it. A small fraction of the national budget, one line item, has occupied a large piece of our collective national mind. It is getting in the way of easing the suffering of our neighbors. It would be best to remove that thing, the border wall, from the conversation, and let the balance of our lives return, at least for a while. We will have a chance to see what may seem so urgent to many is not actually so, and we have time to figure this out. One thing is for sure, the answer to this cannot be one side unilaterally overtaking the other. It can end a stalemate, but with no balance, we are all left in darkness.

For now, we are stuck in twilight. We can emerge. We must emerge. It will only happen when forces quit pushing against each other, threatening to overtake one another, and begin to compromise in a way that leaves everyone satisfied.

Haninah and the Raven – First Friday Story Service for Parashat Va-eira

Adapted from “Kindness Returned” as told by Peninah Schram in Jewish Stories One Generation Tells Another

Part 1

In the Torah portion this week, Vaeira, the Israelites doubt Moses’ message that God is going to free them. They forgot however, that God remembers kindesses to the thousandth generation. And their ancestors had racked up a lot of kindness. It was time for God to remember them. Which reminds me of a story…

Long ago, there was a wicked king ruling over Israel. If you asked him the time of day, he would shout at you to “get your own sun dial.” And then one his guards would throw you to the ground. If you told him he should smile more. He would tell you “You should breathe less.” And then he would have you bound in the stocks. And OH! He had no sense of humor either. One day the crown tumbled off the king’s head and got dented. He asked his adviser where he could get a crown fixed. And the adviser said, “Try a dentist.” Like you, the king did not laugh at this joke, and before the adviser could apologize, he was thrown into prison. The king was wicked, cruel, humorless, and unforgiving.

Well his advisers, the ones not in prison held a meeting. They decided the king was mean because he had no one to share his throne. He needed a queen. Yes! A queen would make him a better person. They had to convince him to get married… but how. First they needed to tell the king of their plan.

So they drew straws, and one very unlucky adviser, a Jew named Hanina, drew the short straw. It would be his Hanina’s job to convince the king to get married. He worked up his nerve and walked very timidly toward the king. And then….

I will tell you what happened in a bit.

 

Part 2

Hanina, was standing before the king, and he imagined a life in a dirty prison, or being thrown into the river with snakes, or [Gulp] worse. He managed to say, “O King, your majesty, so wonderful and wise. Your greatness should live on after you.”

The king nodded his agreement.

“Well sir, if you were to die, after a long life mind you. You should live to 120. But when you die sir, you will have no heir to take the throne … you could be forgotten.”

The king’s face grew red. And he started to tremble. Hanina fell to the floor, curling up in a ball as he awaited his punishment. But, turns out this was a convincing argument. The king wanted his legacy to last forever. Imagining a world without his name remembered sent him into a panic. That was why he trembled. Hanina was safe, at least for the moment.

The King rose from his throne and declared, “I have decided to find a queen. I shall soon be married.”

At that very moment, a bird, a raven to be exact, flew into the royal hall and placed a long strand of golden hair in the king’s hand.

The king said, “Aha! This is a sign. I shall marry the woman from whom this golden hair was taken.” He looked to Hanina and handed him the hair.

“And you dear sir,” he added, “will have 30 days to find her.”

“And if I don’t?” Hanina asked. Knowing he did not want to hear the answer.

The king just laughed.

And we will hear what happened next in a moment.

 

Part 3

So Hanina kissed his family goodbye. In one hand he held the golden hair for dear life. In his other hand, he carried a sack. Inside the sack were three loaves of bread, a little bit of medicine, and 12 silver coins. He had barely travelled half a day when a raven, the very same one who had delivered the hair, landed on Hanina’s shoulder. It was cawing and making a terrible racket.

“Whatever is the matter with you?” Hanina asked.

Much to his surprise, the bird answered him. “I have not eaten for three days. I thought I had found some flax, but it turned out to be a hair. So I spat it into the hand of some shlub.”

Hanina was startled for lots of reasons. “That was no shlub. That was the king of Israel. That hair belongs to his future queen. I am supposed to find her. You don’t know where it came from? Do you?”

The raven said, “No” but did point him in the general direction from which he came.

Hanina thanked the raven and offered him one of his loaves of bread.

The bird quickly gobbled it up, and told Hanina. “It is true what they say about you, that you are honest and kind. For this reason, God has blessed you with the ability to understand animals. May God continue to bless you, protect you from all danger. And may God make you successful in your quest.” And the raven flew away.

Hanina walked in the direction of the raven had pointed. He had covered several miles when a giant dog leaped into the path, snarling, and growling, and I will tell you more in just a bit.

 

Part 4

Hanina trembled before this giant dog. It hand giant claws and even bigger teeth, and it seemed angry. Remembering his blessing, Hanina tried to speak to the dog.

“Why are you so angry, my dear dog?”

“I’m not angry,” The dog answered. “I have a gash down my side from running into a thorn bush. I am in such pain I haven’t eaten in six days.”

“Six days!” Hanina gasped and pulled the medicine from his bag. He rubbed it on the dog’s wound. The pain was gone, and Haninah offered him his second loaf of bread.”

The dog gobbled it up, and said, like the raven before him, “May God Bless you, and protect you from all danger, and may God make you successful in your quest.”

And so Hanina continued on his way until he reached a river where he met a fisherman. And I will tell you about that….. right now.

Hanina helped the fisherman pull his net ashore. At their feet lay a bundle of fresh caught salmon. The fisherman thanked Hanina and asked what could he do to repay him.

“All I ask is that you sell me the largest of these fish for twelve silver coins.” The fisherman agreed, and Hanina gave the the fisherman the coins from his bag.

Hanina then tossed the fish back into the river. Before it swam away, the fish came to the surface and called out, “May God bless you, and protect you from all danger, and may God make you successful in your quest.

Again, Hanina continued on his way until he reached the wall of a fortified city. The sun began to set and Hanina sat down and fell asleep against the city wall. He woke up in a jail cell… And I will tell you more about that in a bit.

 

Part 5

Hanina had been arrested. During the night, the city’s guards had carried him into the prison leaving him only with his one loaf of bread and the golden hair.  Famished, he ate the bread and waited. One of the guards came and told him, “You have been charged with illegal trespassing. Now I shall take you to the queen for sentencing.”

Hanina was guided into the queen’s court. He was worried, but he knew it could not be any worse than what awaited him back in Israel if he failed on his mission. The worry went away suddenly when he noticed, underneath the queen’s crown was the longest, silkiest, most beautiful golden head of hair he had ever seen (and this was in the days before conditioner!). He ran up to her and compared the one he brought with him with the ones in her head. They were a perfect match.

“This is fate.” He cried out. “God has answered my prayers.”

Hanina fell to the floor and groveled at the queen’s feet. He explained his mission, and he begged her to come back to Israel.

Agreeing that this was more than coincidence that her hair had been carried away by the wind, found by a raven, given to a king, and then returned to her by a Jew who could talk to animals, she thought to herself, “I should really by a Powerball ticket.” But what she said was, I will go on two conditions.

And you will hear about those conditions in a moment.

 

Part 6

The queen told Hanina her conditions. “My two conditions before I go with you to Israel are these. First, take two bottles and fill them with water from two different oceans.”

Hanina was deflated. It was about to get worse.

“And second,” the queen continued, some years ago, “I lost a very valuable ring. Find it for me, and I shall go with you.”

Hanina left the queen’s palace, certain of his doom. But then he saw a familiar face. The raven landed on his shoulder, and Hanina told him about the queen’s requests.

“No worries, dear friend. Consider it done.”

The raven grabbed two bottles from Hanina and carried them away in his beak. He flew to one ocean, and filled the bottle. He flew across land to another ocean and filled the second bottle. On the way back to Hanina, he stopped at the river and told the fish Hanina had met about the ring. The fish dove deep into the water and called to the rest of the fish for help. Before long, the ring was found in the river bed and brought to the surface to the raven. The raven returned to Hanina, and before it could say anything, it was swallowed by a wild boar. Then out of nowhere, the giant dog ran out of the forest and pounced on the boar who dropped the raven and ran away.

Hanina realized, all his kindesses had been returned to him, and at a time of his greatest need.  He had indeed been blessed and protected and he had been successful on his journey.

The queen with the golden hair came to Israel, and just as the advisers had predicted, the king turned kind, establishing just and fair courts. To oversee of the courts, the king appointed someone who was always honest, kind and worthy of blessings. He appointed none other than Hanina.

The lesson of the story is this: We never know when kindnesses might be repaid, so we spread them far and wide like Hanina did, as if repayment does not matter. And if we spread them out to as many people or animals as we can, we may just find that the kindness returns to us. As it was for God and Israelite slaves in the Torah, it may be when we need it the most.

 

High Resolution For New Year’s and Parashat Shemot

Picture this.

For Chanukah, you just got a super de-luxe, High Definition, High resolution TV. You are excited to get it set up. You install it on the wall, you center it just so in your living room, and then you grab a drink and settle into your sofa to watch the big game. You may have even invited some friends over to watch with you on your super, new High Resolution screen. But when the game comes on, the picture is small, ordinary, even a bit fuzzy. This is not at all what you expected. Now, anyone with a little bet of tech savvy knows, you may have the wrong aspect ratio, or maybe you did not turn to the HD version of the channel you want to watch. Or it could be that the cable package you purchased does not support the High Definition capabilities of your new toy. A customer service rep will be happy to upgrade your service for a small monthly fee. Whether the fix is easy, sophisticated, or costly, one thing is sure, you plan for watching the big game was High in Resolution but low on delivery. So, that is in the past, and  we turn our thoughts to other resolutions. With Chanukah behind us, we look ahead to making resolutions for the new year, and we hope that our grand ambitions will be in sync with the effort we deliver to them so that they can be realized in true clarity—crystal clear and complete. But New Year’s resolutions are often like HD Tv’s with a poor connection. The intent is bold, the potential is grand, but the picture is blurred from a weak delivery. Over time, it becomes clear that the signal received and the resolution are out of sync.

An article from the New York Times Smarter Living section tells us three main reasons why most New Years Resolution do not make it out of January. One is that it is too vague. “I’m going to be more organized.” That means nothing because there is nothing tangible associated with it. You have to resolve something specific like, “I’m keeping my daytimer.” Or “I am going to reduce the junk in my closet by half.” Measurable outcomes are important. The second reason for failures is the lack of a clear plan. “I’m going to lose 30 pounds” sounds nice, but if you haven’t established a diet or scheduled time for exercise, then the resolution is nothing more than words without action. Best practices say that a good resolution is set out with quantifiable, realistic, and achievable benchmarks or, sadly, we set ourselves up to fail.

Over and above being vague and not setting goals, the third reason is the most important, and one which our Torah portion addresses this week. The third reason New Years resolutions fail is that they are not personal. In other words, they are not based on what is right for us as individuals but rather what other people, or society suggest is best for us. And so, even though we may not truly care about making the most money, or having the nicest car, or conforming to other people’s definitions of beauty, we may feel pressured to resolve something that does not really matter to us. That is not to say that financial security, and reliable transportation, and physical health are not important. It is just that the motivation has to come from within, to meet a need, and not be forced from the outside.

Where the Torah portion this week, parashat Shemot is helpful to us is when Moses comes to Midian and meets the daughters of Jethro, the Midian Priest. Moses has fled Egypt. He is a stranger in a strange land, and when he approaches a well to get water. Jethro’s seven daughters approach to water the flocks and some cruel shepherds try to drive them away. Moses does not stand idly by and defends the young women. When their father Jethro hears of Moses’s bravery, he invites him to stay there in Midian. And this is the important part for us tonight….The Torah says, “Moses consented to stay…”

Now that is a drab sentence. “[He] consented to stay, like “oh, all right, I guess so.” Wishy washy. Boring. Non-committal. This is not Moses. A hero who has killed an Egyptian slave master, rescues seven maidens from a gang of bullies, and who is going to lead a nation out of bondage. There is no way Moses acts like that. He consents to nothing. He acts… with conviction. This is what the commentator Rashi tells us. He picks apart the language. The word is “Va-yo-el.” It appears to come from a Hebrew root that means “willing.” Rashi removes us from that misunderstanding, that Moses is passive, and he points us to a reading of the story in which Moses is a man of conviction. He says the root is not willingness, but rather a root that means he swore an oath. When Jethro, the midian priest offers Moses does not make a half-hearted decision because it is convenient for the moment. No. Moses makes a full-hearted promise, that he will stay there because it is what is right. It is a good place for him to be, and it is mutually beneficial to the midianites to bring Moses into their tent.

Moses’s decision is made with resolve, but still it is more than a mere resolution. When he accepts Jethro’s offer and swears his loyalty, he affirms what is right.

Now, I think the way Rashi describes Moses in this section can be a model that can guide each of us to greater success in the coming year. Resolutions are inherently flawed because implicit in them is a notion that we are broken and need to change. It is a very negative way to look at oneself, and it places us in a pit that is hard to dig out of. We do not have to hamper ourselves as we head into this new year. We have the power to give ourselves a better head start. We will not need a shovel to dig out of a pit because we can start ourselves running on solid ground. We can resolve to do things, in a positive way. Instead of making resolutions in which we answer to outside pressures, we can affirm with conviction the best parts of ourselves. We can embrace what we know to be in our best interest and which are also good for our friends, family, and neighbors. Rather than view ourselves as broken, as resolutions lead us to do, let us instead find in ourselves the best of ourselves. And then, like Moses, we will not consent to making resolutions, we will swear to be great.

You may say that this is po-tay-to and po-tot-o, that change is change, and making change in the new year is a resolution. To some extent, that may be true, but when we start from a place that is part of who we are, it is easier to get to where we want to be. Resolving to lose weight is much different than affirming that we enjoy healthy foods and the way we feel when we exercise so we want to do more of them so we can bring down blood pressure and blood sugar levels. The former sounds drastic. It begins outside of ourselves and is so daunting we may let ourselves off the hook. The latter, the affirming goodness, advances something we already feel. It is not a change, it is doubling down on something good, something we already know how to do.

Beyond physical health, we can find a good example in a new year’s affirmation by a Chicago couple, John and Sarah Breen. After 14 years of marriage, and work, and raising children, they felt themselves drifting apart. They did not sense the need to make a drastic change. Rather, they found something that already worked, their genuine connection to one another and the way they bring out the best in each other. They did not do anything crazy like a big vacation or move to a new city or have another child just to shake things up. They capitalized on the best part of their relationship and committed to going out on 52 dates, one a week, for the entirety of 2018. And, approaching the end, the acknowledge that it has made them better as individuals and as a couple. They have also inspired other couples to follow suit.

So in many ways, it was a resolution, but it was a high resolution that began by affirming the best of what they already had.

May we all in the secular new year, be able to affirm the best parts of ourselves so that our high resolution, comes through in perfect clarity, just the way we need it to.

 

Shabbat Shalom