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Moshav Me'or Modiim, Israel
Rabbi Avraham Arieh and Rachel Trugman have over thirty years of experience in the field of Jewish education.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Modern Times and the Crises in Relationships

In a recent discussion with my good friend George Gumbiner he pointed out a certain crises in relationships and self identity that seems to exist in society and in so many areas of our lives. This ambivalence manifests in many ways: in the growing confusion surrounding sexual identity, the weakening of family ties, the distrust in big government and organized religion and in the soaring divorce rates. In the Jewish world this is further seen in the high intermarriage rates and the disconnect that so many Jews have with their Jewish roots and their connection to the State and land of Israel.

Thinking of these ideas surrounding the present state of affairs seems very appropriate for this time of year as we are about to enter the month of Elul and the holidays of Tishrei - Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Succot and Simchat Torah. As is well known the acronym of the Hebrew words ani l'dodi v'dodi li (I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me) spell the word Elul. 
Although we are entering into a period of deep introspection and judgment we should always remember that it is the context of the love relationship between man and God. In other words the key to Elul is a yearly review of our own relationships: to God, to family and friends, to our commitment to Jewish life and Israel as well as our relationship to the earth on which we live and the greater society that surrounds us. On a deeper level this review demands of us to probe the relationship of our inner selves and our outer persona, and the correspondence between our dreams and goals and the reality of our lives.

It seems to me that the crises in relationships are directly connected on some level to the amazing technological advances of the last hundred years. Although these advances have brought great progress and blessing to mankind they have also brought ecological disaster and exaggerated expectations of what society owes us and the place of the individual in the bigger scheme of things. Now-a-days if we have to wait an extra second for a computer response, a fax to be sent, a phone call to go through, or an extra minute for an international flight to arrive we are up in arms. We all have hundreds of friends on Facebook but no one to really talk to when the chips are down. So many people are connected to the whole world in cyber space but feel more distance between themselves and others than ever. Our idea of relationships is too often what is in it for me and not the true give and take involved in a real relationship. More and more people are putting off marriage to build a career and see the world and then, when they are finally ready to make a commitment, they find they might have missed the boat.

So here comes Elul and a new opportunity to look at ourselves in the mirror, to examine our direction in life and where we are coming from and even more important, where we are going. A new year is coming and we all have opportunity to work on our relationships in all their manifold expressions and to renew ourselves once again.

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