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What Type of Forgiveness Do You Need to Employ?

08/26/2021 04:26:37 PM


One of the things I love about the Jewish approach to life is that everything is nuanced.  Forgiveness is no different.  According to Rabbi Dina Rosenberg quoting Rabbi David Blumenthal, not all forgiveness is the same:

The most basic kind of forgiveness is "forgoing the other's indebtedness" (mechilá). If the offender has done teshuva, as described above, and is sincere in his or her repentance, the offended person should offer mechila; that is, the offended person should forgo the debt of the offender, relinquish his or her claim against the offender. This is not a reconciliation of heart or an embracing of the offender; it is simply reaching the conclusion that the offender no longers owes me anything for whatever it was that he or she did. Mechila is like a pardon granted to a criminal by the modern state. The crime remains; only the debt is forgiven.

The second kind of forgiveness is "forgiveness" (selichá). It is an act of the heart. It is reaching a deeper understanding of the sinner. It is achieving an empathy for the troubledness of the other. Selicha, too, is not a reconciliation or an embracing of the offender; it is simply reaching the conclusion that the offender, too, is human, frail, and deserving of sympathy. It is closer to an act of mercy than to an act of grace. A woman abused by a man may never reach this level of forgiveness; she is not obliged, nor is it morally necessary for her, to do so.

The third kind of forgiveness is "atonement" (kappará) or "purification" (ahorá). This is a total wiping away of all sinfulness. It is an existential cleansing. Kappara is the ultimate form of forgiveness, but it is only granted by God. No human can "atone" the sin of another; no human can "purify" the spiritual pollution of another.

What kind of forgiveness do you need to employ this year?

Sat, December 4 2021 30 Kislev 5782