Last night, following our program for Selichot, I had a great conversation.  One of those informal talks that get to your core in a way that only informal side conversations can.  The program had focused on the topic of forgiveness, as did our talk, and centered on this video from Jewish Food for Thought:

In this conversation, I realized what had been bubbling up inside me throughout the video and during the programmatic discussion.  Forgiveness is about us and really has little, or even nothing, to do with the other person.  When we do not forgive, we allow the other person who hurt us to continue to hurt us.  When we forgive, we are able to stop them.

Forgiveness, as I wrote a few weeks ago, is an internal act. It is one which empowers us to heal ourselves. It is not really saying that we are ok with the act that someone did to us–that we approve of what they did.  Instead, it is an acknowledgement that it happened, and that we can move ourselves beyond that moment in time.  Not so much that we accept the other’s action, but that we accept the reality that the action happened.  We can’t change that.

Real forgiveness is not superficial.  It is so much more than the words we might utter when someone offers us an apology.  Real forgiveness takes time.  Maybe that’s why we have Yom Kippur every year to focus on this–sometimes the process takes more than a year. We need to allow ourselves more time to get there.  Another chance to forgive.

Because once we forgive, we are able to begin–to start a new phase of life in which we have changed and we have grown.

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About rabbiisa

I'm a Reform Rabbi with a passion for education! I'm also a pop culture fan, political junkie, and NY Times crossword puzzle addict. I am INTP, a proud member of Red Sox Nation, and a fan of the Oxford Comma.

3 responses »

  1. meer says:

    The problem could be that forgiveness, if meant in the Christian sense, does not empower. In fact, it can well go against Torah. For example, one must not forgive an Amalekite. If a fellow-Jew, for example, behaves irreverently, or foolishly, it might be better to pity him rather than “forgive” him.

    Forgiving a murderer is just plain foolish, isn’t it? Would you forgive the Nazi atrocities. This blanket idea of a forgiving of all that cruelty that’s out there – smacks of self-delusion.

    The point I’m making: Forgiveness means to ASK FOR FORGIVENESS and then if you get it you can be happy. Until then, he who perpetrated the hurt needs to bear the liability.

    The Christian way, for example, okays the worst crimes because the perpetrator needn’t lift a finger to change his evil inclination. And if he IS forgiven without soliciting forgiveness, God will not tolerate that sort of behavior, nor should He.

    The son in the film may have “forgiven” his usurper, but it is, as you say, ” Forgiveness is about us and really has little, or even nothing, to do with the other person.”

    What you probably mean is, you have a psychological ploy to help yourself feel better if someone deceived you, to regain your relaxed composure. But as far as rectifying the transgression that the OTHER PERSON COMMITTED, is NOT within your domain to do so. You cannot just “drop the charges” on the committer. That just does not fly with Torah, because it’s up to Hashem to do the forgiving then. Unless, of course, the person turns to you with an apology – in which case you can then forgive them. That initiative on his part was the action he required to do to bring about his own forgiveness!

    Kol tuv!

    • rabbiisa says:

      I don’t mean forgiveness in the Christian sense, but perhaps there’s another word for what I do mean–but I’m not sure what that word might be.

      Murder cannot be forgiven because the person wronged cannot give forgiveness–so that example doesn’t really work for the forgiveness that we give for our sake and not for the sake of the person who seeks forgiveness or has acted in a way that demands the need for forgiveness.

      But, as in the movie and also in real life, I think we can forgive in a personal way, even if the person has not asked forgiveness. And even if they cannot (for instance, if they have died). I don’t mean forgiveness in a cosmic sense, but in a personal one (again, I’m not sure if there’s another word for this, but I’d use it if there were). Instead of continuing to be hurt by someone’s actions, we can choose to “forgive” those actions and let go of them.

      It’s not about rectifying the transgression. It’s about healing ourselves.

      • me says:

        Yes, well put, “It’s about healing ourselves”, by letting go of the grudge.

        It recalls an interesting lesson our sages teach us, that anger is akin to idolatry, for he who manifests anger is actually showing he’s in denial of divine providence.

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