Disturbed by Being Disingenuous

By Wendy Belzberg

Published September 26, 2003, issue of September 26, 2003.
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This is the time of year when I ask forgiveness of my family and friends for anything I might have done in the past that was hurtful to them and when I focus on forgiving others for hurts they have inflicted on me. A few months ago I had a falling out with a friend, and I have no desire to mend the rift. I cannot forget — nor forgive — the vicious and angry words that were hurled at me. I don’t want to go into the new year carrying a grudge, but neither do I want to be disingenuous about trying to patch things up.

Without apologies

I see a loophole: During the High Holy Days we address not only those “sins” committed against our fellow men, but those committed against God. Why not take this one up with Him? As you pound your chest in admission and recognition of your human frailties, it would be appropriate — and easy — to add one more: Forgive me, God, for being unable to let this one go. I am neither a rabbi nor a scholar, and my advice may not be in keeping with Jewish tradition. Nor am I a believer in adhering only to the letter of the law. It seems particularly important at this time of year to fulfill the spirit of the law as well. Forgiveness would be ideal. But if you can’t bring yourself to forgive, why add insult to injury by lying about it?

* * *

Close family friends have recently separated after 20 years of marriage — the wife left her husband for someone else. She won’t go anywhere without him and is intent on making sure that her friends recognize them as a couple. My daughter is getting married and does not want to invite the new boyfriend, whom she has never met. Frankly, we are all a little concerned that the wedding will turn into an opportunity for our friend to show off her boyfriend rather than to celebrate the bride. Furthermore, we plan to invite her estranged husband. How do I tell my old friend that she is being invited solo?

Mother of the bride

You don’t. It is your daughter’s wedding, and it is her job to deliver the news. Moreover, it will be easier to swallow if it comes directly from the bride rather than the bride’s mother. I don’t imagine your friend will take the request well — and she may even decide to boycott the event. There is nothing like the passion of a new love affair to blur one’s better judgment. The easy (read: cowardly) way out would be to avoid the conversation altogether and to address the invitation to your friend alone. But don’t even think about it. If she is a dear friend, she is entitled to hear the news firsthand, not to discover it on the outside of an envelope.

* * *

Every year I attend High Holiday services with my brother and sister-in-law. She is more observant than I am and gives me a hard time if I come in a formal pantsuit instead of a dress. Isn’t my attending services more important than what I wear?

— Skirting the issue

Yes, if you decide to attend services with friends or family who don’t insist on a specific dress code. You are not obligated to attend with your brother and sister-in-law. If you choose to go with them, however, you must respect her customs and level of observance. Perhaps your sister-in-law is merely asking you to dress in accordance with the spirit of her synagogue, or perhaps she sees your attire as an indication of your attitude toward tradition. You have freedom of choice. If you choose to eat your sister-in-law’s gefilte fish and brisket over the new year, you are obliged to dress in a way that will sit well with your hostess.

Write to “Ask Wendy” at 954 Lexington Avenue #189, New York, N.Y. 10021 or at wendy@forward.com.

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