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Who Is Responsible For Our Wrongdoings?

Me: Hey Asher, what should I write about in my article for the temple?

My son, Asher: Something funny!

My son then paused, looked at me and said: Oh wait. But you aren’t funny.

First, this is what I get asking for advice from my pre-teen. Second, I will be sure to write about something not funny today, which should be easy for me, according to Asher.

This week’s portion is Ha’azinu and can be interpreted to be about blessings, our misdeeds, and punishments. (Good thing I don’t have to be funny with this one).

I consider my blessings to be my children, parents, and extended family. My health is a blessing. My friends are a treasured blessing as well. And since I am sharing, I consider re-finding Emanuel in my career a blessing.

My misdeeds are long and without someone buying me a drink or two, I am not about to share them all. Obviously.

Regarding punishment, on this one I am stuck. I do not believe G-d punishes us. I do believe people punish each other and ourselves. Having experienced pain at the hands of others (emotionally, physically) and serving as my worst critic on most days, I do not look at G-d and blame them. It’s us. It is ourselves. It is humans.

Recently, a letter went out from David Rakofsky, Emanuel President, who discussed how it is up to each of us, not the person to our left or right, but us, to help our community. This is similar. We are the ones who can work to stop the pain we inflict on each other and ourselves. Not the person to our right, not the person to the left and not G-d.

Now, we may need help doing this and we should not be afraid to ask for it. It is not a sign of weakness, but rather of strength. So as we sit in this time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and think of our misdeeds, also think of how we can change to enhance our blessings. Do the work of being honest with yourself. If you need help from someone else – from a friend, a therapist, or your community – we are here for you.

A few resources from Jewish Children and Family Services (JCFS) are below in case it is useful to you, or someone who may ask you for help. Making that first call can be the hardest, so if you need help making it ask a family member, a friend, or your community at Emanuel.

May everyone have a safe and happy new year filled with sweetness and personal growth. Personally, I have a whole list of personal growth goals, including, apparently, becoming funny.


Sarabeth Salzman

Executive Director

Crisis Hotlines

  • Illinois Domestic Violence Helpline (887-863-6338) is a free, confidential, 24/7, multilingual helpline that will connect you with support, information, and referrals for shelter, safety planning, legal advocacy, and more.

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233) offers free, confidential, 24/7 support via phone and online chat.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) is a free, confidential, 24/7 helpline for people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

  • Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline (888-293-2080) offers free, confidential, 24/7 support, crisis intervention, and referrals for survivors of sexual violence and their significant others.


  • The ARK (773-973-1000) offers shelter and a myriad of services for Chicagoland Jews who are facing adversity.

  • Deborah’s Place (773-722-5080) provides housing and support services for women experiencing homelessness in Chicago.

  • Home of the Sparrow (815-271-5406) offers transitional shelter, affordable housing, rapid re-housing, and other supportive services for single women, pregnant women, and women with children.

  • Sarah’s Circle (773-728-1991) serves homeless and at-risk women with daytime services including food, clothing, shelter, housing, and clinical services.

Legal Services

  • Lifespan (312-408-1210) provides legal representation, counseling, and advocacy for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

  • Ascend Justice (312-325-9155) empowers individuals and families impacted by gender-based violence through holistic legal advocacy.

  • Chicago Legal Clinic (773-731-1762) provides quality legal services and education to the underserved and disadvantaged.

  • DuPage Legal Aid (630-653-6212) provides free legal assistance for family law issues such as divorce, child support, and custody.

  • Legal Aid Chicago (312-341-1070) provides free civil legal services for people living in poverty in Cook County.

  • YWCA Evanston/North Shore (Skokie Court Advocates) (847-470-5052) offers legal advocates who assist domestic violence survivors with obtaining orders of protection, safety plan, and accessing other legal remedies.

Financial Services

  • The ARK (773-973-1000) provides free financial services such as help with managing budgets, applying for government benefits, and finding employment.

  • Chicago Chesed Fund (847-679-7799) offers assistance in the form of goods, services, and financial support for families in crisis throughout the Chicagoland area.

  • Catholic Charities (312-655-7700) provides food, clothing, shelter, and counseling for people and families in need.


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