A search engine in addition to Google

Online product creator Nick Punt has proposed the addition of a twitter mea-culpa button which would enable users to admit mistakes. What if alongside a retweet button, there was a de-escalating ‘I made a mistake’ button?

As we enter 2021, it feels like we’re finding less room for trying out new ideas, for taking risks, for test-driving new perspectives. Indeed, doing so online can be radioactive for your reputation. Alas it’s hard to grow when you’re always running for cover.

And sometimes we are so awash in an unforgiving climate that we refuse to forgive ourselves. This may be what’s going on in this week’s portion of Torah when Joseph’s brothers get a message to him following the burial of their father. “Before his death, your father left this instruction: “Tell Joseph “I urge you to forgive the offense of your brothers who harshly mistreated you” so please do now forgive them” And Joseph wept as he listened” (Gen. 50:16-17). Of course they were worried about residual ill-will. And, given that the Torah never mentions this instruction from their father, perhaps their worries also stemmed from their own ongoing feelings of guilt.

Hopes are high for 2021. Predictions are plentiful. So is good advice, like dedicating the year to arranging your time differently.

My wish is that we expand our search engines beyond Google. Now is a good time to activate your spiritual search engine which seeks things that are less computable. It specializes in the uniqueness of experiences, in intimate empathy, in first-hand curiosity, and, yes, in trial and error.

Spiritual searching can help you recall what it feels like to assume positive intent in others or of how to live with the unknown. It can invite a ‘wealth of warmth’ into your life which can include awakening each morning to ask yourself: How much time will I spend today on reading, on going for a walk, on calling a friend?

As I feel grateful to take some quiet time for reading and reflection in the coming weeks, pausing after more than a decade of sharing these Friday messages to invite some guests to do so, my wish for you is akin to my own personal wish. As daily demands continue to make us hard of inner-hearing, may our discoveries feel authentic and self-evidencing. And may we be more patient with ourselves by glimpsing our lives with some of the patient, gentle expectation with which God views us each and every day.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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