In the wider world, New Year’s resolutions are made on January 1. In the Jewish world, particularly the religiously observant Jewish world, they are made during the month of Elul leading up to the High Holy Days, culminating with Yom Kippur.
In general terms, New Year’s resolutions should fall under the heading of “be more considerate of others.” Most of us are guilty in one way or another of being inconsiderate.
Some examples of New Year's resolutions of being more considerate
At social gatherings, don’t monopolize the conversation. Someone else may have something interesting or even more interesting to say.
Don’t butt in on someone else’s conversation without excusing yourself and asking if it’s all right. Very often two people are having a conversation that may be very important to at least one of them and a third person arrives uninvited, spins one of the two around and takes over.
If invited to dinner in someone’s home, unless you are allergic to certain foods, do make an effort to taste whatever the host or hostess has placed on your plate, even if you don’t like it. They have gone to a lot of trouble to prepare it, so show a little respect for their effort.
By the same token, guests should be asked in advance whether they have allergies or food preferences and whether they are vegans or vegetarians. It’s pointless inviting a vegan to dinner and serving only meat dishes.
At a gathering in which people are dancing, not everyone comes with a partner. For wall–flowers, such events are often miserable occasions and every effort should be made to ensure that every wallflower in the room gets to have at least one dance with a partner.
Lack of consideration is arguably most evident in public transportation.
Passengers with shopping trolleys, walkers and baby carriages often enter through the front of the bus, find a seat in one of the first rows, and park their trolleys, walkers and carriages in the aisle, making it impossible for other passengers to pass. The entrances at the center and rear of the bus are wide enough for wheelchairs to pass through comfortably, and there is a special space for them and for baby carriages in those areas. Shopping trolleys can also be placed there.
Jews have always been a nation of shleppers and even today, they carry huge backpacks onto the bus. If there is a double seat available, they place the backpack on the seat alongside them and don’t remove it when another passenger is left standing. If there is no vacant seat, they remain standing and a seated passenger is in constant danger of being hit on the head by the backpack, which should be lowered to the floor of the bus.
EVEN WHEN there are vacant seats, many passengers opt to stand in the doorway of the bus, making it difficult for others to board or alight, and don’t move even when politely asked to do so.
Many ultra-Orthodox males and females of all ages do their best not to make eye contact with standing elderly passengers or pregnant women so that they don’t have to give up their seats to them. This surely runs counter to what they are taught in their educational institutions.
Among the offenses too frequently noticed on public transportation are people yawning or coughing without covering their mouths and picking their noises or poking their fingers in their ears.
Outside in the street, these same people often spit phlegm not in the gutter but on the pavement. Aside from this being a disgustingly inconsiderate habit, it is also dangerous because someone can slip on the phlegm and become badly hurt.
Even people who are considerate are sometimes aggressively so. For instance, wanting to carry the shopping of a senior citizen. First of all, the bag may not be heavy. Secondly, the owner of the bag may be fiercely independent, so don’t grab it before asking if the owner needs help. If the response is negative, leave things alone and don’t insist.
Likewise with people who are blind. Don’t grab them by the arm. Some are better at navigating than you are and don’t need your help and certainly don’t want it if you haven’t first asked if they need it. Even then, they dictate the terms. These days, blind people put a hand on the shoulder of the person guiding them. It makes them feel more comfortable and independent than someone pulling them by the arm. Also, when you do ask if they need help, bear in mind that they are blind, not deaf. Don’t shout at them.
Now that almost everyone owns a mobile phone with a camera accessory, many people take photographs of family and friends in various places that they pass or visit.
Just as whoever is photographing is about to click, someone walks in front of them instead of behind. Is it really so difficult to walk behind instead of in front? All it takes is a little consideration.
In theaters, people are usually given assigned seats, and those closest to the aisle often have to stand up to enable other theater patrons to pass in order to get to their seats. Very seldom do those who have to stand up, again and again, receive a “Thank you,” “Excuse me please” or “Sorry to bother you.”
The same happens in synagogues in which there are assigned seats, but in synagogues where people can sit wherever they please, it is amazing how frequently someone ignores a row of empty seats or seats near the aisle that are vacant and decides on some seat in the middle or the far end, causing nearly everyone else in that row to stand so that they can get past. Why could they not take a seat that would not inconvenience anyone?
Then there’s the problem of mothers with young children. One can’t expect young children to sit quietly and patiently in a synagogue, especially when they don’t really understand what’s going on. So their mothers and grandmothers bring them junk food, such as Bamba and potato crisps, which are often dropped on the carpet and trodden on. Diced fruits and vegetables would be a lot healthier and far less damaging to the carpet.
These are just a few examples of the general lack of consideration for others. There are many more. We should all take an honest look at our own behavior before we make our New Year’s resolutions.