During this time of teshuvah, internal turning towards considering and reconsidering our lives and our choices, we talk a lot about forgiveness.  About how to offer it and what that means.  And about how to ask for it and really mean it.  We are taught that after asking for forgiveness from another 3 times, you are absolved from trying to gain that person’s forgiveness–it’s a symbolic understanding that they are not ready to forgive, which is on them–once you have given the sincere attempt to apologize (really apologize), then you are permitted to move on.  I think this is a brilliant construct which recognizes so much about human nature and our need to forgive and our need to move forward, sometimes despite the fact that others cannot yet move forward themselves.

But what do we do when the person to whom we want to apologize has expressly told us that they never want to hear from us again?

What do we do when there has been a situation in which we want to recognize our part–and express that to the other individual–but that person said things that are hurtful and hateful, so that it wouldn’t be good for us to communicate with that person again?

What do we do then?

How do we find forgiveness from those who have blocked themselves off from letting us offer our sincere words of, “I’m sorry”? It would seem unfair of us to go against their express wishes.  And yet, do we dare try? Or do we step back and know that it would hurt them more for us to make that attempt.

Is this one of those cases in which we need to forgive ourselves and forgive the other person, in order to ourselves move on, knowing that opening the conversation would likely lead to more hurt on both sides?

I’m not sure what the answer is.  But I know that sometimes, it is hard to let go, of situations, of hurt, of having hurt.  And it can be hard to admit that sometimes, the other person is so broken, that they couldn’t help what they did, and that anything we say–no matter how sincere and meant–won’t matter.

And so, we try our best.  And make hard decisions about when to ignore someone’s plea to not speak to them.  And when to honor that request and know it is best for everyone.

Because, in the end, we all deserve wholeness.  And that personal shleimut is the goal of us all during these days.


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.

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