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Yom Kippur: The Secret to Forgiveness

Yom Kippur: The Secret to Forgiveness

The key to letting go of the hurt and truly forgive.


I received two phone calls this past year that shook me to the core.

The first came in one beautiful spring morning as I was leaving for work. The voice was high pitched and frail. It was a man I had known in high school who was sick with an aggressive form of cancer. We hadn’t spoken in many years. What did he want from me?

He explained that since he was all alone in the hospital, with no family around him to keep him company, he had started looking back on his life. He intimated that this year was likely to be his last. It had occurred to him that he had caused me much pain and heartache throughout our high-school years together. He was calling to ask me for forgiveness.

The second call I received just a few days ago. It was from a childhood friend. He was calling to ask me forgiveness for a note he had stuck inside my desk in 5th grade. It had said that he hated me and wanted nothing to do with me. I asked him why he was calling me now. He replied that it was because he was getting older and was struggling to find a wife. He started looking back on his life to see if there was anything that might be hindering him from starting a family.

I assured both of them that I forgave them and wished them health and success in all of their endeavors.

What gripped me most about these calls was that while it was relatively easy for me to say the words “I forgive you” it was so much harder to internally forgive and let go.

Did I really let go of the pain and suffering they had caused me?

What is the secret to forgiveness?

The key to forgiveness lies in the ability to identify people with their inner beauty and virtue.

It lies in understanding that people hurt because they are hurting.

It lies in recognizing that although actions can be terrible and inexcusable, the perpetrators of such actions are not to be forever defined by their mistakes.

Instead they are to be appreciated for who they really are: a beautiful human being created in the image of God with unique virtues and qualities.

Of course this does not mean that all actions are excusable! God forbid.

But it does mean that, save for few exceptions, a place of understanding and forgiveness can almost certainly be found.

We need to start looking past actions and instead, into the essence of people.

We need to ask ourselves: what can I see in this person that is beautiful?

What can I see in this person that is pure?

What can I see in this person that is Godly?

How can I perceive that what this person did to me was not necessarily a reflection of who he really is?

It is only when we explore and seek out answers to these questions that we will have truly begun walking down the path of forgiveness.

As we come closer to Yom Kippur, a time when we seek forgiveness from God, we should remember that the surest way to securing that forgiveness is by sincerely letting go and forgiving others.

If we look past their outer deficiencies and wrongdoings, instead focusing on the inner beauty and qualities of our brothers and sisters, God will surely do the same for us.

May we have the wisdom and courage to sincerely forgive and may we be forgiven by God in return.

October 4, 2016

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Visitor Comments: 4

(3) Jane, September 26, 2017 4:50 PM

my mother-in-law

I try to apply this to my mother-in-law, one of the most terrible people I have ever met, a real witch, who made our lives miserable from the day after we got married for about 20 years, until she realized that her grandchildren also couldn't stand her and she calmed down.

But she always acted so sweet and nice to the outside world. Maybe that's the real her? No. Not at all. She's a good actress, and also a very dishonest person, so putting on acts is not hard for her at all.

But I anyway forgive her, because I know that any amount of suffering we have is from G-d and it's to test us. So if I'm being tested, I might as well pass. And it's not a test you can cheat on, and I certainly do not want to return for a make-up test, G-d forbid. So I know she is only a shaliach, a messenger. and suffering cleanses and atones.

Advise to women: Don't be a "mother-in-law". Be kind, loving, a best friend.
Don't give advise unless asked or if it's a life or death matter, don't criticize, mind your own business and be nice. My daughters-in-law and I get along beautifully. The main thing is to see the good in them and concentrate on that. I really love them and they know it. I also have a very close relationship with my grandchildren and their husbands and wives.

I know someone who refused to name her daughters after her paternal grandmother because she was such a terrible mother-in-law ( to my friends mother). So what did that woman gain?.

(2) jim, October 10, 2016 8:53 PM

mine seems more ME that needs the forgiving

but all the persons involved are way out of reach. i will pray about it while making sure i am genuinely forgiving of all others.

(1) Dvirah, October 9, 2016 6:35 PM

Spontaneous or Requested?

I agree that if the person who wronged you reaches out you have a duty to respond positively, even if it is difficult. But what if the people never ask for forgiveness?

Stuart, October 14, 2016 6:13 PM

If they never ask

Perhaps, they are the most important. Find it in your heart to forgive. Find your own reasons whether personal to them or to you that may have triggered the incident(s). Imagine a conversation with them then or now. Acknowledge your pain and how you triumphed or did not. Acknowledge that you would forgive them if they were before you now. Forgiveness is not only G-dly, but beneficial in so many reasons that you won't believe until you do it. It's like removing a road block in your life. I know because I did. It's best done in prayer, as well as before you go to sleep.

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