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The Hardest Word

09/14/2018 03:57:58 PM


Rabbi Steven Suson

Every night, before bed, Mara and I read a book together and talk about our day. It is my most treasured time with my daughter, since we are both rushed in the mornings and busy most days. I suspect she enjoys it too because, during this time, she is candid and inquisitive. We sometimes use the stories to open discussions and share our feelings. My favorite book to read with her, this time of year, is The Hardest Word, illustrated by our own congregant, Katherine Janus Kahn. 

In the book, the Ziz, a fictional character, inadvertently damaged a garden that belonged to the children. Asking God for help, he is sent on a mission to search the world for the hardest word to say. He discovered words with many syllables in English and Hebrew and Yiddish. After bringing many comical but incorrect suggestions, the Ziz ultimately admitted that he had been unsuccessful at finding the hardest word. Feeling inadequate, he apologized to God for his inability to accomplish the mission and rectify the wrongs he had made. It was then that he understood - the hardest word is SORRY.

Whether you are 5, 55, or 105, one of the most difficult things is to accept and admit our own fallibility (Also, if you are 5, nice job reading this email. If you are 105, nice job using email!). Making mistakes doesn’t make us bad people. But, taking responsibility for them always makes us better. Humility makes room for others’ opinions and beliefs. 

Why do we take three steps back and bow in each direction before we pray for peace in the Kaddish and the Amidah?

Perhaps before we achieve true peace, we must first have the humility to step back and make room for others. We bow to the right and to the left, acknowledging their presence and symbolizing our desire to learn and work and live in harmony together. 

During these 10 Days of Repentance, may we all search inside ourselves for the hardest word and share it with someone close to us.

Shabbat Shalom & Gmar Tov,

Rabbi Suson

Tue, July 14 2020 22 Tammuz 5780