The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Letting Go

This morning, on my way from shul to the train, I passed by a member of my shul who was walking in the other direction. Although we're not friends, I said good morning. He seemed to be looking straight at me but did not respond. I thought it was weird, but, trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, just assumed he was distracted or did not hear me. (Incidentally, this is a guy whom, in ten years, I have literally never seen smile. Ever).

The only other alternative I can think of is that this guy is b'roigas with me. He wouldn't be the first and probably not the last. Serving as shul president for six years can have that effect on people (particularly when you get stuff done; you are much less likely to develop enemies if you are a do-nothing president).

Over the years, I've had a few such experiences. A couple of years after I resigned, just before Rosh Hashanah, MHW made me apologize to a former member whom I had, effectively, pushed out of the shul. Although I did not regret what I had done (he was like a malignant tumor that had to be removed), there is no question that my actions were rough and that an apology of sorts was warranted. During our meeting, after stating that he appreciated the gesture, he mentioned that there was another man who was closely associated with him and had also left the shul, who had tainas against me and that he thought speaking to the other guy would be a good idea.

Having barely said a word to the second guy, I couldn't imagine what I could have done to have made him so upset. Nevertheless, after reporting back to MHW, I was instructed to meet with the second guy. I told him that I wasn't sure why he was b'roigas with me but I apologized if there was anything I had done to hurt him. When he told me what it was, a single incident that had happened about four years earlier, it took all my willpower to stop myself from saying to the guy, "you've gotta be kidding me."

Next scene. A couple of weeks ago, after Friday night davening upon my return from Israel, I went over to a third man and gave him regards from an acquaintance of his whom I had met in Israel. He gave me a stare, mumbled something I couldn't understand, and walked away (I have a witness who saw the whole thing; I'm not exaggerating). For some reason, this guy is apparently b'roigas with me for a non-shul-related incident that happened more than two years ago that I had nothing to do with. Since that time, the guy has avoided me to the point where he will try hard not to even make eye contact. (About a year ago, we were in close proximity for about three hours and he refused to say anything to me, including a return good morning). I thought that perhaps my reaching out to him with regards from a friend would break the ice. I was wrong.

I felt like grabbing him by the lapels and shaking him and saying, "GET OVER IT!! LIFE's TOO SHORT!! But I didn't. The only thing left to do is to have yet another conversation where I ask for mechila for whatever it is that I did.

My mom always reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously. I think that was good advice.



  • At 8:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As "the witness" - I can testify that mochassid speaks the truth. It was one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen.

  • At 9:41 AM, Blogger ThePeoplesChamp said…

    I guess this other guy wasnt paying attention to the Rebbe's Shabbos drashas the last few weeks either.

  • At 7:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I vaguely recall an old yiddish proverb to the effect of "if everyone tells you that you're shikker, then you should probably lay down".

  • At 5:04 PM, Blogger MoChassid said…

    I did

  • At 10:44 PM, Anonymous Litvak said…

    MOC -

    I salute you for giving that account from the perspective of an ex-President, giving readers insight into the experience and challenges of being in such a position, and also for asking mechilah.

    What came to mind was the Rashi on the words in chumash 'Asher nosi yechto' - if a nosi shall sin. Rashi there comments along the lines of that is a loshon of ashrei - fortunate. Fortunate are we when we have a leader that regrets and repents his errors. Halevai that all Shul Presidents would do the same.

  • At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Shocked at your callousness said…

    I'll lead with these comments... I've never met you (was redirected her from another blog) and I'm not commenting on the facts of the various positions taken by you and/or others. Just playing devil's advocate for a minute...

    If multiple people have complaints about you, doesn't that mean that there's a problem with you?

    And if they're still carrying the pain years later, doesn't that mean that you did something substantial? Something that *they* felt was damaging, even if you callously dismiss it with a "get over it" comment?

    I'm reminded of watching my students fight with each other (that is, before I break up the fight.) One kid punches the other in the stomach, then runs away. When finally cornered, the puncher turns to his victim and exclaims, "Okay, but no punching in the face or in the groin". You don't get to make conditions! When you punch someone "emotionally", you don't get to decide how long they can be angry about it! You lose that right the second you do something borderline offensive.

    Your comments are even more fascinating and insightful ...

    Although I did not regret what I had done (he was like a malignant tumor that had to be removed), there is no question that my actions were rough and that an apology of sorts was warranted.

    Your actions were probably too rough. It's also clear that you lack the common sense or social skills to understand that not everyone sees the world the way you do. So yes, an apology was warranted and given the haphazard way you describe your efforts ( apology of sorts, malignant tumor, and "did not regret" ), I'm confident that you owe him yet another apology.


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