HMS-21: Preparing for The High Holy Days II: Forgive and Forget

Lessons in Memory of my brother Dale Alan Konigsburg

September 9, 2003 – Number 21

Preparing for the High Holy Days II: Forgive and Forget

Forgiveness is one of the key features of the High Holy Day season. Forgiveness works two ways. Our first obligation during the month of Elul, the last month of the Jewish year, is to seek out those who are angry at us, and seek forgiveness for what we have done. This is easy to say but far more difficult to do.
In may entire career as a Rabbi, I find nothing more sad than to see families and friends shattered by a feud. On the one hand, it is a natural and normal fact of life that people argue about what they see and what they believe. Sometimes these arguments are heated and strong. There is no sin in arguing with someone else. As long as there is a conclusion drawn from the argument and there is some reconciliation between the two angry people. Anger should not last 24 or at most, 48 hours. For anger to go on longer is to transform the anger into a grudge. Grudges are wrong. They are useless continuations of anger that go beyond the actual point of the disagreement and carries forward only the hurt feelings. Our first obligation in any disagreement is to finish the fight, reconcile with the one who disagrees and move on with our lives. If not, that the hurt can carry forward far into the future and can destroy many wonderful relationships.
At this time of year, we need to move to end these long term feuds. We must once again approach the person who has offended us and seek a reconciliation. We may not be able to find agreement, but at least we can move to set aside the differences so that a personal relationship can go on. When families reconcile after a long feud, there is always such regret that they did not reconcile sooner, that so much time has been wasted. Don’t let fights go on indefinitely. This is our opportunity to put the anger to rest and find forgiveness. We must not let our lives be filled with a bitterness that will sour our soul. Find all those with whom you are feuding and seek their forgiveness.
This also applies to those whom we have wronged outright. Those whom we can not face again because of what we have done. Here too it is important to apologize and ask for forgiveness. To admit the error and to see to rectify the damage we have done. After all, how can we ask G-d to forgive our sins if we are not prepared to ask those we have wronged to forgive us as well?
On the other hand, we must also be forgiving. There is not point in making someone else squirm when they are in need of forgiveness. We need to release the past from our minds and let our relationships move on. If we want to be forgiven, we need to be forgiving. Sometimes we can have a profound affect on those we love simply by forgiving them for the minor slights and mistakes that are so much a part of being human. If we let the anger go, it can no longer warp our soul. Once we are free of the hurt and anger of the past, we are ready to enter the new year with hope and faith in the forgiving power of G-d.

Next week: Preparing for the High Holy Days III: The Power of Prayer

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