To Forgive is Divine

Question

Dear Rabbi, I am aware during this month — and especially as we get closer to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur — we should try to fix any bad relationship with family or others. However, there is a person I just cannot bring myself to forgive. Can you help me out here? Thanks Rabbi!

9 months

Answers

  1. Congratulations! You’ve already taken the first and most important step in fixing matters by your self-examination and desire to forgive and forget. Aside from any religious angle involved to forgiveness, I think that putting this all behind will bring you greater tranquillity and happiness.

    Having said that, forgiving can sometimes be very, very difficult and I can only encourage you to do so by sharing with you three of Judaism’s teachings through the millennia.

    First, forgiveness is important since it is a very Jewish thing by our heritage. The Talmud states that a person who will not forgive is not a descendant of Abraham. A distinguishing trait of his descendants is that they are forgiving. This unique quality of forgiveness was a gift that God gave to Abraham and his descendants.

    Secondly, forgiving others actually betters one’s own standing. As our Sages teach, “A person who is merciful and forgiving towards others will be treated mercifully by Heaven, and a person who does not act mercifully towards others will not be treated mercifully by Heaven.”

    A third reason to forgive is the most altruistic one. We were created to imitate the ways of our Creator (Imitatio Dei). Just as God is merciful and forgives our errant ways, likewise we should try to imitate this path of forgiving others who have wronged us. This emulation of God includes not bearing a grudge, taking revenge, and many other ethical teachings of Judaism.

    I hope and pray that you find much happiness and success in life and enjoy – with your family and friends – a good and sweet New Year!

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team