“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.”— Leviticus 19:17 (ESV)
This month, Jews around the world will observe the High Holy Days, which begin with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and conclude on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is a time of great reflection and introspection for us. I’m sharing with you weekly devotions based on my book, Generation to Generation: Passing on the Legacy of Faith to Our Children, about the High Holy Days, and the lessons of repentance and forgiveness which are central to this holy time.
When it comes to forgiving others, I can honestly say that my children have been my teachers at least as much as I have been theirs.
One time, when my daughter was three years old, she asked me for candy and I told her “no.” Needless to say, she was not very happy about that answer. She threw a classic tantrum, protesting the situation, which I am sure from her perspective was unfair and unkind. But then she did something interesting. Just a few moments later, she climbed into my lap and snuggled up against my chest.
My daughter’s reaction taught me two things. First, that it is possible to separate a situation from a person involved in the situation. My daughter was upset at her circumstances, but she dropped her anger at me. Part of faith means believing that our lives are exactly as they are meant to be. When we can separate our circumstances from the person or people who played a role in creating them, we can more easily forgive and move on.
The second idea that my daughter illustrated was the power of moving on quickly and completely. Wallowing in her pity and anger would not have served her well. Instead, she unburdened herself from the pain of resentment and stepped into love.
This kind of response comes naturally to children. Yet, as adults, we have the opportunity to choose the same approach.
The High Holy Days season is a time to seek forgiveness from God and from people that we may have wronged. However, it is also a time to grant forgiveness to those who have wronged us.
While we are not permitted to forgive someone on behalf of another individual, nor are we required to forgive someone if they continue to harm us, we must be willing to forgive those who have hurt us when they sincerely apologize. Tradition teaches that God treats us as we treat others. If we want God to be merciful and forgive our sins, we must be willing to be compassionate towards others and forgive their wrongdoings.
Moreover, as we pray during this season for a happy and healthy new year, we can give ourselves a head start when we let go of past hurts and embrace the blessings currently in our lives.
There is a Jewish prayer said every night before going to sleep in which we forgive anyone who may have hurt us during that day. Try formulating your own prayer of forgiveness and say it daily.