Forgiveness and Its Impact

On the cusp of the Jewish New Year of 5782 is Elul, a month devoted to reckoning with the past year. This is a time for self-reflection, recognizing any unintentional harm we may have caused in the past year. It’s a period to sincerely reconcile with others, make amends, and humbly ask for forgiveness.

When one person wrongs another, the latter should not remain silent and despise him, as stated in Samuel 2: 13:22.

“And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.” Rather, he is commanded to make the matter known and ask him, “Why did you do this to me?” “Why did you wrong me regarding that matter?”.

If you feel hurt, take the first step to talk to the person who might have upset you. They might not know they’ve hurt you, or there could be a misunderstanding. It’s your job to start the conversation and create a chance for reconciliation.

Additionally, it would be best if you tried to reconcile three times. This applies to the family, too, as those closest to us may more likely cause offence and respond with withdrawal, hurt, silence, or anger, like in the example of Absalom and Amnon. *1

Rabbi Avraham Danzig *2 asserted that causing harm to another person violates God’s law, and forgiveness is only granted upon seeking it first. Thus, one is not ignored in the heavenly court until he has done the work on earth.

Regarding this sentiment, Rabbi Yehezkel Levenshtein *3 adds, “God shifts from the Throne of Judgment to the Throne of Mercy only when he observes us actively pursuing reconciliation and forgiving one another.”

The Synagogue Service of Rosh Hashanah

The service during Rosh Hashanah synagogue provides a profound opportunity for individuals to seek forgiveness from God, hoping for blessings in the new year. Acknowledging that the control over life, death, prayers, and punishments lies in the hands of Heaven, the essence of forgiveness is contingent upon engaging in Elul’s reflective work and addressing interpersonal conflicts.

The structure of our holiday prayer service on Rosh Hashanah unfolds in three distinctive sections: Malchuyot, Zichronot, and Shofarot.

Malchuyot (Sovereignty) – Jews simplify their approach to divine connection by focusing on one overarching Heavenly Deity, encompassing all aspects of life. Malchuyot symbolizes this celestial sovereignty, expressed through our prayers as a coronation of the “Sovereign Over All.” Judaism’s unique concept emphasizes that life’s ups and downs come from a benevolent God, encouraging us to practice love and kindness towards each other.

Zichronot (Remembrances) – We acknowledge God’s ongoing role in our lives, recognizing that while direct divine prophecy is no longer experienced as in ancient times, we trust that God remembers us today, just as in the past. Although God may be unseen, our awareness of God should never waver.

Shofarot (Revelation) looks toward our collective future. In Judaism, the revelation of G-d to Moses on Mount Sinai was not a conclusive endpoint but an ongoing process. Each day, G-d’s revelation persists, emphasizing the brilliance and resilience of our tradition. Generation after generation, we bear the responsibility to reinterpret and internalize these sacred teachings. As expressed in Deuteronomy 30:12, “lo bashamayim hee” – “It is not in heaven,” underscoring that the holy words of our ancient texts are meant to be continually understood and applied here on earth.

Here’s Rabbi Yair Silverman from Moed in Zichron Yaakov, Israel, sharing insightful thoughts on malchuyot, zichronot, and shofarot and connecting them to our current situation.

 

Our prayers beseech God to move from the seat of Strict Judgement – Din – to the Seat of Rachamim – mercy.

Please, G-d, grant us life, health and prosperity.
“Teshuva, Tefila, Tzedaka, maavirin et roah hagzera”
Teshuva, returning to our core self and God
Tefila, through words of prayer and
Tzedaka, giving and sharing freely with our fellow man

Maavirin et roah hagzera – have the power to sweeten the harshness of G-d’s decree. *5

Shana tova ve metuka, Hebrew, for wishing you a sweet year to come.

 

Footnotes:

  1. Maimonides, Mishne Torah, Hilchot De’ot
  2. Rabbi Avraham Danzig, Wikipedia
  3. Rabbi Yehezkel Levenshtein, Wikipedia
  4. Structure of our prayer service on Rosh Hashanah, Malchuyot, Zichronot and Shofrot, My Jewish learning www.myjewishlearning.com
  5. Teshuva, Tefila and Tzedaka, Ten Days of Teshuvah, quoted in Torah Studies: a Parsha anthology by Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson adapted by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Kehot Publication Society, Brooklyn, New York, pp.334-337.

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