Sunday, September 24, 2006

Tashlich: Perspective of an Incest Survivor - By Mara bat Mara

© (2006) By Mara bat Mara

My way of dealing with the high holidays is not to do them. I needed to get away from where I live so I went shopping. On the way back I saw people doing tashlich (throwing their sins away in a river). I got so angry at them. I kept thinking what hypocrites they were. I wondered how many of them abused their children in the past or currently are offending them?

If the statistics are correct one out of ever 4 girls and one out of every 5 boys are being molested this yom tovim (holiday).

Do these parents really believe they can throw away their sins of molesting their children? Or their friends children?

Do they really believe they can throw away their sins of standing idly by doing nothing when they suspect a child is being abused or neglected?

What about all the rabbis who help to cover up these crimes? Do they think they can just toss their sins away too?

I just found this list. I was wondering what kind of bread does a child molester throw into the river? Or what about a rabbi who helped to cover up this type of criminal behavior?
"Occasionally people ask what kind of bread crumbs should be thrown," the e-mail reads. "Here are some suggestion for breads, which may be most appropriate for specific sins and misbehaviors:
For ordinary sins..................White Bread

For complex sins..................Multigrain

For twisted sins.........................Pretzels

For sins of indecision...................Waffles

For sins committed in haste......Matzah

For sins of chutzpah..............Fresh Bread

For substance abuse......Stoned Wheat..."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for writing this. I feel exactly the same way.

September 24, 2006 8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you sound so angry. I hope you know most parents don't abuse their children?

September 25, 2006 12:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i fell bad you are so bitter,even to the point of not letting anyone enjoy their heart goes out to you,i think you should cry this yom kippur, come back to your people.

September 25, 2006 7:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why do you think that this post doesn't allow people to enjoy their children? I'm confused by your statement? I don't think you mean sexually?

I think that our people need to come back to reality. Why should someone want to come back to their people when they find their people's heads in the sand.

Once our communty stops blaming victims then we can talk about survivors coming back.

September 25, 2006 9:05 AM  
Anonymous Minny said...

Mara bat Mara,

I must comment on this. I have no idea how to even work this fercocktah machine, but I needed to figure it out so I can respond.

As an adult survivor of abuse I commend you for having the courage to express your emotions, and feelings.

As a Jew, I feel your pain, your grief, sorrow, and sadness, for the child that endured so much.

As both a survivor and a Jew, I am there to witness you purge your anger and frustion for all you endured. I also must respond that Yom Kippur is not a day to easily just throw away our sins as if they really are pieces of bread. I recently read that bread crumbs are to be forbidden as we are feeding the fish. But instead rocks are to be used, and of course, if the sin commited is not written out on the rock, or even bread crumb, can we really say it counts?

Does the throwing away of a sin count if the wrong doer never asked for forgiveness from those they wronged?

I would like to think that on this Yom Kippur, you not look out at all those you assume to be hypocrites, but within. Take a rock and write any wromg doings you may have commited against you.

I do this every year - please take care of yourself - you do deserve it.

September 25, 2006 10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mara, Thank you for writing. I used to go through exactly the same feelings. I couldn't stand all of the external trappings of our religion because after all, it could be totaly meaningless. Who knows what people are doing at home behind closed doors! I understand how you feel and have sooo been there!

To the person who wrote...I feel bad you are so bitter...Mara doesn't have the power to prevent anyone from enjoying their own children! What are you reffering to anyway?? She is expressing anger that she comes by very honestly. Healing only comes through acceptance. Anger is an important part of the process. Keep expressing it Mara!!

September 25, 2006 10:59 AM  
Anonymous Yosef Blau said...

The deep pain and the anger expressed by Mara is understandable. While the people who were saying tashlich were most probably innocents, the custom, if taken literally, implies that sins can be thrown in the water without taking personal responsibility. (There are rabbis who do not say tashlich for that reason.)
Anger caused by pain however does not lead to rational analysis. Abuse takes place in all parts of the general society and those shopping are as likely to be part of the problem as those saying tashlich.
Yosef Blau

September 25, 2006 12:17 PM  
Blogger bunyaruth said...

Mara bat Mara
I too am an adult Jewish survivor of childhood incest. It has taken me many years and I'm finally at a point where I have told myself, it happend, its over and I'm OK. I cant change the past, but I can enjoy today and the future. You are on a path to recovery and prayer may be a path. Expressing your feelings is a good thing..I admire your courage to speak out.

September 25, 2006 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember learning that until you have said you are sorry to those you have wronged, G-d will not forgive you. Doing Teshuva has 3 parts.
1. Knowing what you did wrong.
2. Saying you are sorry and fixing the problem you caused, if it can be fixed.
3. and not doing it again.

Until your abuser has faced up to you and apoligized they can throw whatever they want to into the water and say all the prayers they want it will not help them at all. On Yom Kippur they could stay in shule all day fasting and praying and G-d still won't forgive them. They have to do Teshuva first.

That goes for all our abusers and the people who cover up what was done to us.


September 25, 2006 4:14 PM  
Anonymous Donna said...

I was wondering if you know the answer to this. If your offender apologizes to you, yet you do not feel it's real. I mean you feel like they are just giving you lip service, does that count?

If I remember correctly that if a husband tries to give his wife a get and she refuses, he will have to find 100 rabbis to make a decree freeing him of the marriage. Wouldn't it be great if the same was true for pedophiles and other types of sex offenders; and also those who protect them?

September 25, 2006 4:42 PM  
Anonymous Minny said...


You are so right. There are three parts to forgiveness, and G-d does not take away our right to being the one granting the forgiveness.

The wrong doer must confess his or her wrongs to whom they have harmed and ask them for forgiveness before they can even ask G-d.

Did you also know that if the wrong doer feels that they do not deserve forgiveness then you need not grant them forgiveness.

I believe there are unforgivable sins. And they revolve around child abuse. So, let's say the abuser does ask for forgiveness, and you ask the abuser if they deserve to be forgiven and they answer No, of course not, one is not obligated to forgive this person, even if this person comes to them three different times asking for forgiveness.

Thank you for that reminder Miriam.

September 25, 2006 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Chaya said...

Rabbi Blau,
Thank you for responding on this blog. I think I misunderstood what you were trying to say when you wrote "Anger caused by pain however does not lead to rational analysis."

Some times anger is a good thing. For many survivors anger is often an extremely scary and difficult feeling to admit to having or express. Usually underneath depression is a great deal of anger. I'm always told this by my therapist. She gets so excited when I'm able to express this feeling.

I know for myself anger often leads to action. Depression leaves me feeling extremely stuck.

I know for myself that when my frustration reaches a certain point it turns into a form of anger. If nobody is doing something to correct something that is wrong. I finally get to the point that makes me stand up and fight. I don't mean a fist fight. I mean stand up and just say NO. I'm not going to take this anymore. I say what's on my mind and I do what it takes to correct a situation. I'm speaking in very rational terms. I feel like Mara bat Mara was too.

I'm not sure what you were referring to in what Mara bat Mara said that make you feel that what she said wasn't rational? Do you think you could explain it better?

September 25, 2006 4:55 PM  
Anonymous Yosef Blau said...

Anger is a healthier response for a survivor than getting depressed. I was responding to the anger being directed at the people who were saying tashlich with the implication that there was some connection between saying tashlich and being an abuser.
That observing Judaism has not prevented abuse is a justified indictment of the Orthodox community and rabbinate. The way I read the posting the stronger claim made was that religious Jews were more likely to be responsible for abuse. I questioned that.

September 25, 2006 9:12 PM  
Anonymous Mara bat Mara said...

Dear Rabbi Blau,
I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say or maybe I didn't articulate myself well enough. What I was trying to say is that during the holidays there is usually an increase in tension in homes, especially in homes where there are children. There's added expenses and pressures to keep the house clean. There's also the added tension because kids are out of school and are just home more.

When I was growing up this was a time of year my abuse was really bad. I know that I'm not the only one who will tell you this.

When I see parents this time of year I can't help but wonder which ones are being emotionally, physically and sexually abusive to their kids? Many other survivors will tell you they have the same thoughts going through their minds too.

I spent the day shopping. I was able to escape my flashbacks up until the point I drove past the river. All along the banks I saw adults saying tashlich. I started having flashbacks. I remember my parents doing the same thing. I remember my father raping me before or afterwards, depending on the year. My comment was not meant to attack the orthodox community. It's not just the orthodox community that says tashlich. It may be more common, but it's not exclusively orthodox. It was a tradition in my family.

I'm proud to finally reach a stage in my healing that I can come out and say I am angry. I am also in a place in my healing that allows me to feel comfortable to put my thoughts and feelings out a blog. It's been a long time coming. I am a Jew. I am an incest survivor. Holidays freak me out. I hate them and want absolutely nothing to do with them. Every year I face the same challenges as I am this year. The difference is I'm not keeping them to myself. I'm blogging.

September 25, 2006 9:53 PM  
Anonymous Yosef Blau said...

Thank you for clarifying. I misread you because I focused on the religious character of the holidays not on the practical. Even if not intended, your reacting to people saying tashlich resonated. It is a custom that reflects Judaism as magic rather than the self evaluation and struggle to change that hopefully is expressed through experiencing Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
Yosef Blau

September 25, 2006 10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Rabbi Blau,
I never heard of tashlich before. I'm Jewish but not religous. I was hoping you could answer some questions I have? I was reading what Miriam and some others wrote and am curious.

I a survivor of physical and emotional abuse and also incest. My parents never apologized to me for what they did to me. But I did my best to apologize to them for the things I did.

There was a time in my life that I acted out a lot. As I healed I realized that there were things I did and said that just wasn't nice. I was angry and hurt and really didn't know better ways to express what I was feeling.

I apologized to my parents many times, yet they said that they would not accept my apology.

What do I do? Do I have to find 100 rabbis say that it doesn't matter that my parents would accept my apology?

My therapist told me that I shouldn't worry about it anymore, but I do. How does this all work in a Jewish context?

September 25, 2006 11:02 PM  
Anonymous Minny said...


I know your question is for Rabbi Blau, but I'd like to add, if I may about your parents not accepting your apology.

I remember years ago, before I admitted to being a survivor, going to a Rabbi and asking, "How am I to honor my parents if my parents are abusive?"

He said, "By being a better person then they, you honor them. Because it is not only your parents that are part of your creation, but also G-d."

Interesting enough that was helpful, although I never thought of myself as better then anything, or anyone. In fact I always revered myself as lessor then others, including my abusive parents.

Nevertheless, after reading your response of you telling how your parents won't forgive you, yet are your abusers as well reminded me of my own parents and the question I posed to this Rabbi.

Your parents are your abusers, and I could be wrong, but it might be your parents are holding back on forgiving you as another form of abuse. Dysfunctional people always will have justification for their actions, and or behaviors.

I recently read that if you go to someone you wronged and asked for their forgiveness three different times, and all three times they refused to grant you forgiveness. And, you believe you deserve to be forgiven, the sin then is placed on them for not granting you the forgiveness.

It is actually sinful to withhold forgiveness as a form of punishment, provided you believe you deserve to be forgiven for the wrong you committed.

I'm sorry your parents are still being so cruel, may you find peace and healing on your journey.


September 26, 2006 4:49 AM  
Anonymous donna said...

If that is true about asking for forgiveness then many survivors may be in trouble.

I know that I can not forgive my parents for what they did to me. It was totally unacceptable behavior.

So if what you are saying is true then their sins are on me. I can't buy into that sort of thinking. I hope I'm misunderstanding what you are saying?

September 26, 2006 7:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think if someone asks a question to a "real" rabbi that we should let the rabbi answer. I think we would have less confussion.

I think we can trust Rabbi Blau to explain things correctly.

September 26, 2006 8:26 AM  
Anonymous Yosef Blau said...

Sorry for the delay, I do have a day job. The concept is that if a sin is between two humans then repenting before God is insufficient. This is where the notion of apologizing comes in, together with redressing the damage caused (aplicable in monitary matters). If the repentent is sincere and the other party refuses to accept the apology after three unsuccessful attempts it is no longer neccessary to further apologize.
Applying it to an abusive parent can be complicated . Rarely does the abuser or the enablers take responsibility for what occured. A formal insincere apology need not be taken seriously. It is often part of a manipulation to reverse things and make the survivor feel guilty. Individual situations may not lend themseves to to a general answer.
Yosef Blau

September 26, 2006 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Minny said...

Donna, Yes I did read, (I think it was a Chabad article) that said if a person goes to one they wronged and asked them for forgiveness on three different occasions and the wronged person withholds forgiveness then the sin is placed on the wronged person.

But, if the person does not deserve forgiveness then the sin still remains with the wrong doer. I know how this could be confusing and I wish I knew where I read that article.

My personal thoughts are child abuse is an unforgivable sin, regardless.

In any event my purpose for mentioning this was not to speak for another person, especially a Rabbi, but to only point out an abusive parent withholding forgiveness as another form of abuse.


September 26, 2006 2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Each year around this time I get confused. If you are not written in the book of life for the next year does that mean you are a bad person?

Nobody ever explained to me why it's so great to want to be judged favorably to be able to live another year. Every year I pray that God will take me out of this pain and let me die. Each year my prayers aren't answered I wonder why God makes me be in so much pain. I want the memories to go away. I don't want to remember any more. I am in therapy, tried anti-depresents but they don't work. No matter what I take my childhood is there. I can't drug away being an incest survivor. It's all very real.

I hate this time of year.

September 27, 2006 10:15 PM  

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