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An Unorthodox Approach to Yom Kippur

Sometimes, I think best when I write, hence this post.

This year, I took a rather unorthodox approach to Yom Kippur (our Day of Atonement), not by spending the whole day in the synagogue reciting the liturgy, but rather by taking the time at home to think about the meaning of the day.

I did read selections in one of our prayer books in our home library, but then I reviewed the chapter on Yom Kippur in The Jewish Holidays: A Guide & Commentary, by Michael Strassfeld, also in our home library, which was actually more thought provoking.

In it, Yom Kippur was likened to facing death and choosing life, as a metaphor for repentance and renewal.

By recalling my experiences with, and reactions to, my heart attack and stenting, now seven months ago, I was actually able to relate more concretely to the ideas of Yom Kippur.

Immediately following the heart attack, I had one stent placed in a coronary artery but had to wait three weeks for the second stent to be so placed.

It was in that period of time that I was certain I was going to die.

Thankfully I have lived through both procedures and am now in good health.

Nevertheless, this was a scary time for me and I went through it with trepidation and fear, and also introspection, like now.

In fact, shortly afterwards, I wrote this poem:

My heart murmurs its thanks
To all who saved me
First to God who oversees all
And to my wife with whom I share my life
Then to my children and family
For their loving kindness and concern
And of course to the physicians
Whose magic opened my arteries … and my eyes.
The heart is the center of life
And of emotion.
I am overcome by all of it.
As I look to regaining my strength.
I am out of the heart of darkness
But not like Mistah Kurtz – he died.
My own river of life flows more freely now
And courses through my thoughts.
I am grateful for life, for family
And for the joy of living
To see what lies downstream for us all.

Since that time, I have become more aware than ever concerning my life and my surroundings, and I continue daily, including today, to thank God –

– for loving family and caring friends,
– for life where and how we live,
– for the air we breathe, for the light of day, and for the majesty of the stars at night,
– for the nourishment of good food, and even
– for the second chance given me to be a better person in my daily life, through mitzvot (good deeds), tzedakah (charitable action) and other things.

This is the change of Yom Kippur, from facing death to choosing life.

This is my renewal.



David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California who thoughtfully writes about other things as well. His website is at .

Taking Time and Making Time in Mediation and Elsewhere for Reflection

Tradition holds that this is the time of year for reflection. Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) begins this weekend and it starts a ten day period culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). These ten days are the “Days of Awe” (Yamim Noraim).

This is the time to reflect on many things: what the last year has brought; what the new year will bring; from and to whom we can ask or grant forgiveness; whom we can thank; what we have done and can do to improve social justice; and so forth.

Reflection is actually an important part of mediation as well. It is a time in which disputants can move from anger, resentment, retribution, and the like, to an acknowledgment that there is harm, including self-harm, in these feelings. It is a time for “mending fences” as it were, and for moving on in life.

Sometimes, with the time pressures of mediation and the associated costs in attorney fees and mediator fees, even if moderate, only a little attention can be given to the process of reflection. Sometimes, everyone (except the mediator) wants “to get to the numbers” right away.

But time for reflection is important, and needs to be built in, because of the emotional content of nearly every dispute. Thus, it is critical that the mediator have control over the pace of the session, making time for the inevitable outbursts or catharses, for the posturing and positioning, then for the consideration of underlying interests and needs on both sides of the table; then sometimes for apology and forgiveness; then finally for the reflection and acknowledgment that an emotional and expensive burden can be lifted with compromise and cooperation leading to a satisfactory resolution.

I am all for pacing the mediation to allow the process to work, and I am all for reflection that leads to change.

Which brings me back to the Days of Awe. In this next ten day period, I too will reflect: on my life; on improving my life and the lives of others; on my family and friends and their needs and interests; and on all that’s good, and can be made better, in the world.

And I will try to leave past burdens where they should be – in the past.

Hoping that you too will take time, and make time in your mediations and your personal lives, for reflection, I wish each and all of you who celebrate a good and sweet New Year of happiness, health, prosperity, and change for the better.


David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His business website is at .

I Lost A Friend on Friday.

I lost a friend on Friday. His name was Gil. Perhaps it was an unlikely friendship. He was 95 and I am just 62.

He was actually the “boyfriend” of my mother in law. I call her Mom although she is not my mother.  She is 88.

Gil was a friend of mine nevertheless.  Maybe he was a substitute for the father figure I lost when my Dad died.

We felt like we had a father-son relationship although we weren’t father and son. We were just friends.

Before he was no longer able to travel, we liked to go out to dinner or he came over for a meal, but not alone. We were a foursome, Mom and Gil, my wife and me.

We had nice conversations and we really enjoyed one another’s company.

It made me laugh when we brought them home, each of them with their own walkers. It reminded me of that scene with the dancing ladies and their walkers in Mel Brooks’ musical, The Producers.

Or maybe it reminded me of a slow train, with one following the other, very slowly.

When he could no longer travel, we brought dinner to Gil and Mom, which they both enjoyed.

I read the newspaper to him a few times in the past month since he could not see and was for the most part confined to his wheelchair in his room, mostly alone.  He also didn’t hear so well, so I had to speak very loudly.

Someone said it’s a mitzvah what I’m doing. But that’s not the point. We both appreciated the time together.

I visited him twice last week just before he died. Each time he was resting peacefully in bed.

I said only a few words to him which he couldn’t hear anyway. I couldn’t say anything more without choking up. I just held his hand for a few moments.

Gil was a good friend of mine. Now he is gone and I will miss him.


David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California who doesn’t always write about mediation.  His business website is at .


Doing Things We Do Not Like To Do.

It is human nature not to want to do things we don’t like to do.

I, for instance, don’t particularly enjoy eating/not eating in accordance with certain dietary restrictions, taking medication and/or exercising frequently.

But I have come to terms with this regimen because of my heart condition.

And I know that it is bad for me to do otherwise.

And so I do what I must do.

It occurs to me also that some people do not like to settle their disputes even though it may also be bad for them not to do so.

Here are some of my perceptions as to why I think people dislike settling:

The dispute gives them purpose. Some disputants must prove themselves right and the other person wrong and the forum in which to do so is the legal battle in court or arbitration, not in settlement.

The dispute is exciting. It gives some people a rush of adrenaline or some other stimulant. I think this is the old “fight or flight” response at work, with people choosing the former over the latter.

The dispute gives them something to do. There is much activity in litigation, gathering witnesses and evidence, shoring up one’s side of the case, trying to disprove the other side’s case. It is a focus in which people can spend a lot of time and energy and it gets people going.

The dispute gives them something to talk about. Endless conversations at cocktail parties, among friends, and so on, are filled with the vituperation and justification that pervades the disputant’s consciousness.

The dispute is safe. People feel victimized by the others involved in the dispute. Thinking and talking about it gives people a chance to excuse themselves from responsibility and/or seek and receive empathy or sympathy in response.

One of the most difficult questions for these disputants is this, and I ask it in many mediations:

“Will you be able to let go of the conflict and move on with your life?”

Sometimes the answer is “no.”

However, sometimes it is “yes” if they realize how they have become dependent on it and the harm it is doing.

The trick is to get them to realize their dependence on the dispute and how it is bad for them.

Maybe this phrase is attributable to the Buddha or to other sources, but I do say this sometimes to underscore the harm in continuing the dispute:

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die from it.”

Sometimes that gets their attention, and with their new realization, sometimes they can come to terms with the dispute and resolve it … just as I have come to terms with my heart condition and I do something about it.

Sometimes we simply have to do things that we do not want to do.


David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is at .

Hearing and Listening are Different from One Another.

Hearing is a physical attribute that allows the brain to receive and interpret audible sound waves including speech.

Listening is giving one’s full and complete attention to the speaker so as to interpret/understand the words being spoken (or not spoken) and the underlying meaning being communicated.

Hearing and listening are different from one another.

Not hearing has been referred to as an invisible disability. I deal with this disability every day.

Nevertheless, I believe that I am a very good listener and people have told me as much; it is a part of my profession as a mediator to listen well.

I do my part in mediation to facilitate effective communication by wearing hearing aids and letting people know at the outset that I might ask someone to repeat something if I haven’t heard, correctly, or at all, what was said.

Usually, participants in the mediation are fine with this.

Some hearing situations are challenging but they can be overcome with assistance from the speaker.

Facing the listener helps.

Speaking without hands in front of the mouth is good.

Talking a little more slowly and distinctly is terrific.

Talking a little louder, but not yelling, is okay too.

Some physical environments are challenging as well.

Large meeting rooms and restaurants with lots of background noise can be very difficult. Cavernous inside spaces, like airport terminals and shopping malls, are tough too. So I avoid many such environments when possible.

And, certainly, I don’t mediate in those spaces.

Sometimes hearing on the telephone presents another challenge if the caller is using a cell phone instead of a land line or if the caller is cradling the phone under his or her chin and not speaking directly into the telephone.

But much of my professional work in mediation is face to face in a small conference room, so hearing is manageable and the opportunity to listen is uncompromised.

Or I use email from the office sometimes instead of telephoning. This is manageable too.

When people do not understand an invisible disability such as mine, sometimes it is frustrating:

The restaurant hostess the other night seemed not to understand how the environment was making dinner with my wife a difficult situation for me.  Actually, I don’t think she cared to learn either.

I do appreciate when those with whom I come into contact professionally are careful and considerate in their communications with me and help me compensate for the hearing loss.

Then I can, and do, listen, and listen well, so as to help the disputants help themselves.


David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California who listens carefully. His website is at .

Making Concessions is not Losing.

I had a conversation today with Mark Tseselsky, an insightful family law attorney who understands the psychology of his practice. Although framed in the family law context, different from my own real estate mediation practice, his observations were “spot-on” relative to mediation generally.

For his clients, angry marital couples already embroiled in longstanding arguments over this or that, where winning is everything, the thought of making concessions or coming to a settlement in a mediation, is seen as losing and is therefore intolerable …

At least, until the client has had a contested issue come up and/or begins to understand that he or she may not get everything that he or she wants in court …

Or until the lawyers bills start coming in…

Or both.

That’s when the idea of mediation or settlement comes to mind.

In other words, when litigants begin to understand the risks and costs facing them, that’s when mediation may become more palatable.

In ANY mediation, compromise is essential; it is not “losing.” Compromise is the way to mitigate potential risks and costs. It is the essence of a negotiated settlement.

To mitigate this sense of losing, however, compromise must be couched in terms of preserving dignity. I have written about this before. See,

There I wrote, among other things:

“On the most simplistic level, when both sides compromise or give in to the other, each has recognized the possibility that the other might be right and has honored the other by acknowledging that there are two sides to every story.”

Putting compromise in this context is where the mediator and competent counsel can help, and by making the connection between compromise and giving respect, the parties may be better able to come to, and tolerate, a negotiated outcome.

David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is at .

Unrealistic Expectations

Unrealistic expectations can be a real stumbling block to the successful resolution of a disputed legal matter.

I have seen and written about this issue before.

In one post, I observed that sometimes people are not open to listening and learning about other side’s view of the case and the attendant risks. See,

In that post, I quoted something attributed to Frank Zappa which goes like this:

“The mind is like a parachute; it only works if it is open.”

In another post, I suggested that the (over)confidence of counsel may undermine success in resolution.

There I suggested that there can be significant risks to success if the litigant’s attorney has assessed the case one way and the mediator disagrees even if tactfully.

Often, I refer to a very useful article I found once and bring to every mediation. It is called Cognitive Barriers To Success In Mediation: Irrational Attachments To Positions And Other Errors Of Perception That Impact Settlement Decisions, available at

There, the authors point out the underlying psychological issue in this way:

Cognitive Dissonance. This bias refers to the fact that it is psychologically uncomfortable for most people to consider data that contradicts their viewpoint. Disputants and their attorneys tend to resolve conflicting information by justifying their own conduct, blaming others, and denying, downplaying, or ignoring the existence of conflicting data.

Yet sometimes even showing a litigant that there is a reason why she is stuck in her own position does not get her to adapt from her unrealistic expectations, make concessions, and end the dispute with a settlement.

Ultimately, it is not for me as mediator to disagree with that personal decision. Neither can I tell her I think she is making a mistake even if I have that belief.

As a mediator I must respect the litigant’s self-determination as to the outcome of the mediation, so long as I have given her the informed opportunity to consider the alternatives. See,

That is my role.

I am not a judge and will not judge her.


David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is at .

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