Got Regrets?


Shame, Blame

In the Jewish calendar, Av is the month of “Terrible Things Happening.”

Given the fallible and fragile nature of human beings, those terrible things are often the product of human behavior. And faced with terrible things, we human beings are prone to blame. We point our fingers at one another, like Adam and Eve in the garden, who tried to blame each other, the serpent, and even the Divine for their misbehavior. Adam’s protest, “That woman YOU gave me did it!” is both funny and tragic.

We approach the end of the month of Av 5774, and this year, all I can say is “Thank Goodness.” Tuesday evening we shall begin a new month, the month of Elul.

Elul is the month that we begin our fall journey of teshuvah, a process of sorrow, responsibility, and change. We notice that we cannot control the behavior of others. We can only control ourselves, and that only imperfectly.¬†We still have our emotions, and we still have our memories of hurts past. But in Elul we are called to ask, “What is my share of this?” and then, “What can change?”

The challenge of Elul is to stop pointing fingers. What have I done, what have we done, and what can be different going forward?

Image by Ian Muttoo, some rights reserved

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

3 thoughts on “Got Regrets?”

  1. Thank you for the guidance. As a new ger, I am still working out where my focus should be in any given month, and as an ex-Catholic, I’m still more than a little tense about doing it “wrong.” Your posts are an invaluable resource for all of us.

    1. I understand about the fear of “doing it wrong.” The English translations of the words we use to explain teshuvah (sin, repentence) tend to exacerbate that fear. Imagine that a life of Torah is a target: we aim at it, but don’t always hit the bullseye. Teshuvah is the process of adjusting our aim.

  2. As the mother of adult daughters, whom I love dearly, I find myself walking on egg shells, always mindful not to displease, and yesterday I did what is always unforgiveable – I broke a few eggs. I am filled with sorrow, but thank you for saying that I cannot control the actions of others and can only (barely) imperfectly control my own.

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