Rosh Hashanah… Yom Kippur… Sukkot… Simchat Torah…
Such a holy time of the year, and so many valuable life lessons in each of these holidays. One of the most significant is the asking of forgiveness and for mercy from Hashem. We do this for ourselves, but we also ask for the ability to forgive others. This is not always easy. It takes a lot of work and effort and an open heart. Forgiveness is a powerful thing, but we must remember that like faith itself, it cannot and must not be blind.The guide is simple, our trust and faith must be placed firmly in and with Hashem. This is the one constant and the one truth. Hashem is one, Hashem is all. Man can slip and fall, and sadly act in horrible ways. Hashem is our truth.
Every night we say the Bedtime Shema, in which we ask for the strength and the ability to forgive those who have harmed us throughout the day. On Yom Kippur, this is done on an even larger level, and even holier level. Forgiveness is a powerful ability, as it heals and empowers. But it must come with lessons. We must learn.
Paulo Coelho says: “Forgive but do not forget, or you will be hurt again. Forgiving changes the perspectives. Forgetting loses the lesson.”
Another quote, though I am not sure of the source, says: “Forgive and forget what has hurt you in the past but never forget what it has taught you.”
Maimonides says, “Repentance and Yom Kippur only atone for sins between man and G-d.” He says that sins between man and man will never be forgiven (by G-d) until he (the person who has done wrong) gives the person he has wronged what he owes him and appeases him.
So it is not for us to judge or even imagine how Hashem will deal with those who wrong us. All we have is the power of our own reactions, the ability to forgive, but hopefully learn. Learning is the key, as is knowing when to keep someone at arm’s length… to realize that trust can in fact be broken, and to not give it blindly.
I had a friend tell me that the bond with Hashem is the most important thing… that it goes beyond man, including Rabbi… beyond temple or group… and while those things are important and vital, the most essential connection HAS TO BE between us and G-d. Reach to him, learn from him, trust him.
Hashem teaches us to ALWAYS do the right thing, to pursue the best versions of ourself through Torah and Mitzvah. We have to remember to not compare ourselves with others… that our path is OUR PATH. We must connect to Hashem with heart and eyes wide open, and a true desire to always be learning and growing. Proceed cautiously yet optimistically with man… proceed fully and openly with G-d.
Maimonides also teaches us about the early Sages. According to him they said: “Anyone who becomes angry is like one who worships idols. They also said: Whenever one becomes angry, if he is a wise man, his wisdom leaves him; if he is a prophet, his prophecy leaves him. The life of the irate is not true life.”
To let go of anger is not always easy, but think about how freeing it is. Think about how much damage anger and stress causes us, literally and metaphorically. When we are angry it affects us physically and mentally… It can literally riddle our bodies with tension and pain. Let it go… learn… move forward… move up… Learning is elevating, also literally and metaphorically.
As we move into Sukkot, the idea is for us to embrace our fellow humans… to welcome them into our home… well… temporary home, the sukkah, and to realize that material things are not what define us or bond us to Hashem. We trust implicitly that Hashem will take care of us. We learn the importance of generosity and kindness, and we learn to forgive. We learn to welcome back those who may have wronged us and treated us poorly. If the acts against us are more egregious, this may be an extremely difficult process, and for some, even impossible. We must forgive where we can, but we must learn always… ALWAYS…
May this time of year be holy, meaningful and insightful for all of us.