by Daniel R. Weiss, Head of School
A group of people are traveling together by boat. Seated in the boat while traveling along the body of water, one man takes out a drill and begins to drill a hole in the boat beneath his seat. Worried that the boat would take on water and cause the boat to sink, the others on the boat began to scream at the man.
“What are you doing?”
“How dare you?”
“You will make us all drown.”
To which the man replied, “You have nothing to worry about, I am only drilling the hole under my seat.”
This week at school we focused on communal responsibility, an important Jewish concept. Our students participated in Tashlich by casting away their sins and recognizing that they are responsible to both God and each other.
Each day we begin our morning prayers with the words, Modeh Ani, I thank You. This singular expression of gratitude builds self-awareness of the blessings each of us has. But during this season, in our prayers, we also say Avinu Malkenu, Our Father, Our King. Notice the plurality of our words. It is collective rather than singular.
The same is true when we say the Viduy, the confessional prayer, on Yom Kippur. We say, Ashamnu, Bagadnu, Gazalnu, Dibarnu Dofi, We have trespassed. We have dealt treacherously. We have robbed. We have spoken slander.
Each of these words of confession, 24 in total, follow the acrostic of the Aleph Bet, meaning that we have committed sinful acts from A to Z. Confessing 24 acts in total also recognizes that we have transgressed every hour of the day. There are 24 acts, written in the plural, not because I may have committed each, but because we are all responsible for one another. When one of us is impacted, we are all impacted.
And so we recognize as Jews that you cannot drill a hole under your seat without impacting the whole community. Yet, this hole that is being drilled is not always negative. When I treat another with love and compassion, when I reach out to someone who is in a difficult situation, financially, health related, emotionally, it has an impact on everyone else as well.
The hole drilled in the bottom of the boat also provides us the opportunity to work together as a community and plug the hole. Together, we can stop the boat from sinking.
How much more so do we have the opportunity to apply this lesson and appreciate and embrace others who are struggling during these difficult times. With so much uncertainty, so much disease, so much fear and anxiety, so much that is not “normal,” our positive and supportive actions are needed more than ever. Our compassion will impact lives more than ever before.
As a community, we must not find satisfaction or the opportunity for gossip in the suffering of anyone among us. We must avoid drilling holes that can sink our boat and instead, focus our energy on plugging the leaks we see around us by increasing our compassion for others, by reaching out and raising others up.
May this Yom Kippur be a time when we come together to act as one and to support one another. Because as our sages teach, U’teshuva, u’tefillah, u’tzedakah, ma’avirin et ro’ah hagezeirah, Repentance, Prayer and Acts of Kindness can remove the severity of the decree.
Daniel R. Weiss
Head of School