Published Date: September 22, 2019
This week’s music: Calling Out to You
We are speedily approaching the set time period during which the Torah, both in text and “halachah,”( Jewish law) require us to ask forgiveness for behavior of the past year. The Torah writes in reference to Yom Hakipurim, “ki bayom hazeh, y’chaper aleaichem l’taher etchem, mikol chatotechem, lifnei Hashem titharu,” because on this day, He will pardon you, to spiritually purify you from all of your sins, (when) you come in front of Hashem you will be purified (Vayikra 16.30). Many of our great teachers and masters assign this to mean that when we enter into this day, we will all be pardoned for our sins between ourselves and God.
However, when it comes to forgiveness between people, it is clear from the “halachah” (Jewish law) that Hashem is not the address from whom to ask forgiveness. If I hurt another person, I must personally ask forgiveness of him/her. The “Rambam,” Maimonidies (Hilchot Teshuvah) stresses the importance of asking for personal forgiveness by suggesting that one must ask forgiveness from another person at least three times, in the hope that he/she will be forgiven.
What a challenge! How do I go about asking forgiveness from you? What is my expectation when I come in front of you to ask to be forgiven for hurting you this year? Seems to be that one avenue to pursuit is for me to think about how could I best forgive you if the situation was turned around. What would give you the satisfaction to know that your request was taken to heart and granted unconditionally?
Now it’s time for me to turn back the tables. First, I need to acknowledge that indeed I hurt someone. No matter what reason or excuse I think may have warranted my behavior, bottom line is, I hurt you. I need to fix that both for you and myself, but first and foremost for your sake. If I could approach the scene unselfishly, wouldn’t it be great if you could receive it as it is honestly being presented. Wouldn’t be great after acknowledging what happened between us, that we could mamash forget that it happened. That we realize that in that moment of hurtful actions I was mamash into myself. I was out of my mind and lost control of my actions and realization of hurting someone else. All I thought about was myself, but now you can see that all I am thinking about is you. Let’s totally fix it together..
So, The Slonimer teaches, there is “tshuvah” from love and “t’shuvah” from a place of awe. How can I expect Hashem to forgive me for my transgression against Him? The Talmud explains, He already knows what I did and why I did it. It is clear to Him that I only act like that “b’ruach shtut,” in a moment when I have lost my mind. His desire is for me to not only admit my sin, but to take this negative action and turn it into a positive one. To learn from my mistakes and apply the strength which I have found that lifted me up to ask to be pardoned to help me create a life of more positive behavior in the future.
In the Talmud, Reish Lakish son in law of the great Amoraic scholar Reb Yochanan teaches, the greatest “t’shuvah” is done when one turns his malicious actions into simply mistakes. In another teaching, Reish Lakish seems to contradict himself when he says that the greatest “t’shuvah” is when he turns his malicious actions into merits. The Talmud explains that there is no contradiction, the first teaching being the outcome of “tshuvah m’yiraah,” from awe of God and the second teaching, the higher level of “t’shuvah,” is t’shuvah me’ahavah,” returning from a strong place of love. When I ask forgiveness from you, I must do it from a place of love and in that way together we can be fixing the world.
May we all be blessed to find the strength to wholeheartedly ask for forgiveness, be blessed to receive and accept the forgiveness of others while we totally forgive any individual that may have hurt us this year.