The Sand in our Shoes
This week we read parashat Ha’azinu and we also mark Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. It is known as Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat of turning and returning because more than any other Shabbat of the year, this is the time for us to contemplate our year, to think of the times when we made mistakes, when life did not meet our expectations, when we were hurt or disappointed by others or by ourselves.
In Rabbi Brasch’s “Book of Forgiveness” he tells this story: A man set out to traverse a large desert by foot. There were many obstacles in his way: difficult terrain, mountains, deep valleys, burning sun, pouring rain. But nothing stopped him, he persisted and eventually reached his destination. A few weeks later, when asked about his travels, he confessed that the most difficult challenge of all, the one thing which almost caused him to give it all up, was the sand in his shoes. The adventurer faced every conceivable barrier to success, weather, terrain, fighting the elements, yet the one thing which was the most difficult to overcome, was the one thing which was, in some ways, also the smallest; sand in his shoes.
Through life we find the same thing. It is not the large hurts which cause us the most pain, it is the sand in our shoes, the small, seemingly insignificant offenses, which grate away at us, eat at our very core and slowly creep their way into our lives so we forget the blessings of a relationship, the years of friendship, the love we once had and we focus only on the time when it did not go right, the time when someone got it wrong, when they hurt us. Rabbi Brasch wrote:
“… all through life it is frequently not the large issues that get us down and cause offence but the insignificant, even petty occurrences. They threaten to open up chasms between ourselves and our fellow human beings. They come in all forms; a minor unpleasantness which we cannot dismiss from our mind, an argument about a truly trifling matter, now blown out of all proportion or a small unfairness magnified into an intolerable injustice.”
A Book of Forgiveness, Harpercollins 1996 page 44
This Shabbat Shuva, as we reflect upon the past year, its joys and its pain, perhaps we should remember the voyager with the sand in his shoes, and place our grievances into perspective so we can try to mend the broken friendships, heal relationships and find a place for forgiveness and wholeness. May we be inscribed in the book of life for a year of blessings.