March 15, 2022, Alberton, South Africa
וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ מֹשֶׁה, הַמְקַנֵּא אַתָּה לִי; וּמִי יִתֵּן כָּל-עַם יְהוָה, נְבִיאִים--כִּי-יִתֵּן יְהוָה אֶת-רוּחוֹ, עֲלֵיהֶם.
We may have many reasons not to forgive. We may compile a list of enemies from our childhood, like the character Sheldon Cooper on the Big Bang Theory. We may recite the many wrongs done to us; the slights, the insults, the unpaid bills, the negligence, the disrespect, the public put-downs, but in the end if we choose not to forgive we only harm ourselves. As the old Samurai saying, an angry man defeats himself on the battlefield and in life.
Forgiveness is liberating. You might call it a personal liberation movement. I know people that spent twenty years planning their revenge, and when they finally achieved it, it was hollow, empty, lonely. It cost them their family, friends and peace of mind. But forgiveness, even when not fully deserved, is liberating, it is a breath of fresh air, it is a new lease on life.
My dear mother, may she rest in peace, was a great forgiver. There was nothing that she could not forgive, she has set a great and lofty example for me. I believe her ability to forgive stemmed from her great humility. She was always able to understand the other, his or her circumstances, what led them to their "Unforgiveable" offenses.
I recall the words of the great Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik in his classic, The Lonely Man of Faith. He discussed how we must remember that not all men have the virtue of the righteous, how men not all men have achieved the holiness intended by our Creator, how men fall short of our expectations. Remember that they are imperfect human beings, broken shells, damaged by hardships or poor examples.
OUR LARGE AND SMALL SELF
I know that for myself I have moments when I feel exhilarated and uplifted. Things are going my way and the world is shining on me. At such moments I experience my Larger Self and I am able to be more generous, and to forgive. On the other hand there are times when I am down, feeling broken and frustrated and then my Small Self takes over. At such times it is very difficult to forgive, all we want is justice and revenge.
Life is not easy for many of us. And yet when I see people who are Large, the Larger Self of themselves, it is not those who were born under a lucky sign. This Larger Self is a product of insight and work, an ongoing inner struggle. It is a spiritual struggle. Sometimes it takes a personal crises to trigger such a struggle, sometimes it is a sudden insight, a revelation that sparks our growth. A small man can never forgive. A Large man can. Let us remember the greatest teacher of our people, the one known simply as Moshe Rabeinu, Moshe our teacher. His disciple Joshua became jealous on his behalf when he discovered two young men, Eldad and Medad prophesizing. The spirit of God rested upon them.
Joshua ran to tell Moshe, and beseeched Moshe to forbid these two men from continuing to prophesize. But Moshe replied, Are you jealous on my behalf? I wish that all of God's people should be prophets and that the spirit of the Lord should rest upon them. (Numbers chapter 11, verses 27 - 29)
And Moshe was the humblest of all men upon the earth.
Have a good Sabbath everyone.