Friday, September 21, 2012

Whose Coat are You Wearing?

The purpose of this blog is to provide something creative for Shabbat table conversation. Please print and share.

So on Rosh Hashana morning it's a little drizzly and I throw on my light raincoat.

These new men's raincoats have become all the rage in Baltimore. Lightweight and inexpensive. They won't keep you warm, but they will keep you dry.

As long as it doesn't rain too hard.

And you can have them in any color you want!

So long as it's black.

But you know, regardless of whether or not my coat is hung in a sea of look-alikes, I don't like to have to go searching for my coat. So I developed a system to find my coat extremely quickly.

I turn the hanger around, hooking it on backwards.

(Hopefully no one in Baltimore is reading this, because if the word gets out, everyone's going to do this, and then it won't work anymore.)

Well, actually, on Rosh Hashana this year, my foolproof system failed me for the first time in years.

Unbeknownst to moi, someone (whom I know) had hung his nearly identical black raincoat right beside mine, also with the hanger turned around.

You know where this is going. When Rosh Hashana services are over, I take the coat from the reversed hanger. I.e., his coat.

Later in the day, towards evening, I decide to go to a different synagogue for the afternoon service. Again, a light drizzle, throw on the coat.

This time I notice that it isn't quite fitting me right but it isn't wrong enough for me to pay attention. I am in a hurry after all.

I get to this other synagogue and opt for the hooks instead of the hangers. Doesn't really matter, there aren't so many coats and besides, my name is in it, right?

The problem is, when I'm fixing to go home, I go for my coat and where I expect to find it, I find this other fellow's.

"Oh no," I'm thinking. He must have taken my coat by mistake. I could just take his to him, but what if he's already realized his error and is en route here to swap them?

So I leave it, and when I get home, I phone him up.

"Did you happen to be in such-and-such a shul tonight?"

But he's quicker-witted than I am.

"No, why is my coat there? Because I saw your coat in the other shul this morning where mine should have been."

Notice how I didn't accuse him of taking my coat.

But nor did I assume from the beginning that the error was mine!

"By the way," he added, "didn't you notice that it was a little big on you?" (he is about 50 pounds heavier than I).

"Well it wasn't raining, so I slung it over my arm."

"Oh, well that explains it."

You see, he had also stumbled, thinking for a moment that I must have been preposterously absent-minded not to notice that I had the wrong coat.

How many times has this happened to you, when you saw an error that you committed and assumed someone else had done it? (that's the weekly question, by the way)

Last week I challenged you to choose one character trait to change this year. It could be jumping to conclusions. It could be a short temper. It could be complaining. Or perhaps laziness. Maybe too much criticizing.

The trick to making it happen on Yom Kippur is:

1. Really regret it. Contemplate the damage you've done, or the opportunities lost, due to this trait. Let yourself feel bad about this, for a few moments.
2. Apologize if needed.
3. Commit to not doing it again - just this one trait. But if you're truly committed, you'll have a plan of how to eradicate it, such as reading a self-help book, or practicing meditation, etc. Without a concrete plan, you're paying lip-service but you're not real. Make it your mission, with daily practice, to conquer this trait before next Rosh Hashana.

We all share these bad habits to a greater or lesser degree. In this sense, they're like the ubiquitous, monotonous, homogeneous black rain coats. We've put on the homogenized raincoat of our socialization.

But to conquer one bad habit - even a small one - is so rare, that doing so is like wearing a new custom-made coat. Do this and there won't be any chance of mistaking it for someone else's. This is the path to revealing the real you beneath the socialized fa├žade.

Wishing you a Shana Tova

and a

Shabbat Shalom



 PS - This year's High Holidays prep class is a short 45 minutes. To hear the audio and get the handouts, including the new "24 Questions to Think About from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur", click here.

PPS - Help your friends and loved ones break in their new iphone or ipad: The most amazing Jewish app -  http://tinyurl.com/amazingcalendarlink (Android version: http://tinyurl.com/amazingandroidcalendar )

And of course you can search our free database of the best Jewish books and gifts here: http://bestjewishkidsbooks.com .

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