Conversations before Yom Kippur sometimes take this form: “Where were you on Rosh HaShanah? Why didn’t you come to shule?” or maybe, “Why have you moved your shule seat?”… or even, “Why did you look so sour last week?” The answer may be, “Isn’t it obvious? I’m broiges!”
Broiges with whom? Maybe a spouse, a parent, a child, the in-laws, a business partner, a shule neighbour.
Possibly the rabbi; there was once a person who was broiges with the chazan and wouldn’t say Amen, and the same sanction could be employed against the rabbi too.
Perhaps the broiges is with God: and how do you punish God? By refusing to come to synagogue, of course!
It’s a strange feature of a Yom Kippur congregation – on a day with an atmosphere of forgiveness, there are people who want to be forgiven but can’t forgive.
Sometimes there are two stages – first, “I’m broiges and it’s hurting me!”, then, “I’m broiges and I’m quite enjoying it!”
Never mind that the Torah says, “You shall not be vengeful or bear a grudge against the children of your people” (Lev. 19:18). Never mind that the Talmud says, “Anger deprives a sage of his wisdom and a prophet of his vision” (Pes. 66b). No; “I’m broiges and I’m rather proud of it!” But what is there to be proud of?
A man died and I tried to phone his brother to tell him. All I got was a mouthful about what a bad person the deceased was. A broiges that went beyond the grave – something to be proud of?
A rabbi (this rabbi) made a halachic decision and for 25 years a lady would not invite him to speak to the organisation of which she was president (I did not actually know she was broiges; she told my wife). A broiges that would have gone on forever – something to be proud of?
There is a Jewish principle, a Yom Kippur principle, found in one of the only two verses in the Bible where the word broiges (correctly, b’rogez) occurs. The two instances are Job 37:2 and Habakkuk 3:2. The Habakkuk reference is, b’rogez rachem tizkor. Addressed to God, it says, “In wrath, remember compassion!” The words could also be addressed to human beings: “If you’re angry, don’t forget to show some compassion!”
The other person may be quite wrong, but one can still be polite to them, value them, and even unbend a little towards them.
There is advice that is sometimes given to husbands and wives – “Don’t go to bed on a quarrel!” It applies generally, but with this difference: “Don’t let a quarrel go beyond Yom Kippur. Don’t let a broiges continue into the new year!”
One can always try a conversation, engaging constructively with the other person. Not in order to chew the cud and go back to what started it all off in the beginning, presuming that you still remember, but to try to commence a new relationship.
You may never get really close again. But at least you will be acknowledging each other’s existence on the same planet.
Avot D’Rabbi Natan (chapter 23) says, “Who is strong? He who turns an enemy into a friend”. It’s not easy, but one has to try. If the other person will not unbend towards you, at least you’ve tried.
In the 1950s, before man landed on the moon, it used to be said, “We may not get to the moon – but those who try will get further than those who were not even prepared to make the effort!”
One way of turning an enemy into a friend is to fulfill the Torah command, azov ta’azov immo – “Do something to help your enemy” (Ex. 23:5).
When William McKinley was campaigning in an American presidential election, a newspaper that was opposed to his policies employed a reporter to travel on the McKinley train and wire back stories that made the candidate look a fool. McKinley was aware of what was happening but said nothing.
One freezing day, the reporter fell asleep in the unheated carriage. McKinley walked past and quietly covered the man with his own overcoat. When the reporter woke up he realised what had happened and sent a telegram of resignation from his job. He could not continue attacking a man who had done him a favour.
Often the way of approaching the other party is to utilise a third person. That’s what the sages say Aaron the high priest used to do. He would go to A and say, “If only you knew how sorry B is that you are not friends!” He then went to B and said, “If only you knew how sorry A is that you are not friends!”
When A and B finally met, they had each decided in their hearts to repair the relationship.
Having a broiges should bring you no pleasure. You have to try to mend things even if it is not you who are in the wrong. Whatever happens, you have to move on.
If others have wounded you, you have to try not to wound others. If others have used their tongue against you, you have to use your tongue to bring blessing and support to others. If others have turned their passions and emotions against you, you have to feel for others and bring love and compassion to all your human relationships.
Yes, it is always possible to remain consumed by a slight or injury and to be a sour, obsessive individual. It is also possible to use every experience constructively and to emerge as a more positive, even a more righteous person who knows that even in anger one can remember compassion.