I returned to work Wednesday morning after taking two days off for celebration of the Jewish New Year. I rode my scooter to work that morning feeling happy, energized, and very hopeful that the coming year will bring us all good things and meaningful experiences.
The Jewish New Year is different from the secular New Year that our society celebrates on January 1st of each year. For me, the Jewish New Year is a time of reflection on the person who I have been in the past year and who I wish to be in the coming year. I take the time to remind myself that the past does not define who I must always be and that even though I just celebrated my 48th birthday, I am still evolving as a human being and am responsible for directing my growth in positive directions.
I find this idea of renewal and letting go of the past to be very empowering. Of course, a very important part of renewal is fixing our past mistakes and remedying whatever harms we may have inflicted upon other people. However, we cannot become trapped by the past. I believe we should clean up our messes as best we can, and then we move on with a renewed dedication to not repeat our past mistakes and to create positive change in the world.
In my work as a lawyer I am privileged to often have a very intimate view into the lives of my clients and many of the people who I come into contact with. I know that sometimes, good people make poor choices and that our mistakes don’t define who they are or who they will always be. We each have the capacity for renewal and to make ourselves and tomorrow better. We cannot allow regret or anger to linger too long because these emotions can impede our growth and progress.
As a lawyer I often litigate my client’s claims in an effort to hold a wrong-doing party accountable. In our legal system lawsuits are about money. However, I am also very mindful there are also other motivations and damages that our legal system fails to address. No judge has the power to make a defendant say “I’m sorry”. This is disappointing because I have seen defendants who offer sincere apologies and witnessed the incredible healing power of an apology and a promise to do better in the future. A settlement check only restores money, whereas an apology restores human-dignity. Certainly, a true apology includes monetary compensation for the harm inflicted, but money alone doesn’t always heal our wounds. The words are important.
In the waiting room of my office there is a framed poster that means a lot to me. Some people have suggested that I remove it because it doesn’t fit well with my décor and “branding”, but so far I’ve been resisting their suggestions. The poster is entitled “13 Ways of God” and it contains squares with statements such as: “Give Others Enough Time to Change”, “Grow Closer to Someone Who is Sorry”. I purchased this poster in Jerusalem, Israel from a Hasidic Rabbi and remember how its words resonated with me and who I aspire to become. I framed it and put it in my waiting room because I want my office to be a place where people can grow and reach their potential as human beings.
This concept of my law office as a place of growth and healing is really important to me. It might seem a little contradictory for an office that focuses upon the economic lives and well being of individuals and families to be focused upon such non-monetary issues, but in my mind it’s not. I see in my work an incredible opportunity to restore dignity for those who have disrespected and ripped-off. I am very proud whenever I am able to transform the life a disabled person by helping them obtain social security benefits. I feel that my bankruptcy practice provides me with opportunities to free people from debt slavery and bring them to a place where they can develop a vision of a prosperous future. My consumer rights practice seeks to restore dignity to the deceived consumer and integrity to the marketplace. Even when I’m not able to offer a legal solution to a person’s problems, I hope that the people who visit my office are able to depart with a feeling that they’ve been listened to, respected, and understood.
As I look towards the coming year I look forward to watching the growth and improvements in our community and world. I feel very fortunate to be able to do the work that I do and hope that my office can contribute to the creation of justice in the world. As I move forward I will remember the past, but keep my mind focused on the truth that the future is ours to create.