These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

On “I’m Sorrys”

Posted on February 16, 2013 by Tadea Klein

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I first presented this on the Arava Tiyul,
in a slightly different form.

Around the middle of the first semester, someone said something like this: “I’m sorry, but I won’t pray in a place that doesn’t accept me all the time.”

This person was not sorry at all. And whether or not I agree with their choice, I do wish that they had not felt the need to apologize for that opinion.

Pardes is a warm, wonderful, kind and caring community of people… that sometimes seem unwilling to say “This is what I believe, and I will go no further.” So I would like us to think about those words “I’m sorry,” and how we have perhaps we have come to devalue them by using them with such abandon.

When I say “I’m sorry,” I want it to mean, from the depths of my heart, “I have wronged you, and I wish that I had not. Please forgive me.” I do not want it to mean “I have said what I believe, and I am afraid that you are offended.” When we say that, we are not only minimizing the impact of the words themselves, but we are undermining our own intent. We are saying that we do not actually care so very much about what we just said, because it is more important that we avoid friction than sticking to what we believe.

But friction is necessary, in order to keep stagnation at bay. In order to keep a community active and alive, rather than complacent, we have to be able to argue—to sharpen each other’s arguments, if only for the day when we all find ourselves in places less congenial to differences of opinion. So my blessing on us all is that we should know when to say “I’m sorry,” and when to say “This far I will go, and no further.”