GOOD MORNING! What would it take for the Almighty to forgive your transgressions? Wednesday, September 8th begins Rosh Hashana -and ten days later, Friday evening September 17th is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is probably a topic all of us should be thinking about!
The Torah teaches us that the Almighty forgives us when we do Teshuva - repentance. How do we do that? 1) We recognize that we have made a mistake. 2) We deeply regret our mistake. 3) We rectify the mistake where possible (i.e., returning the stolen item and asking for forgiveness). 4) We undertake a plan to avoid the transgression in the future. 5) We verbally ask the Almighty to forgive us.
However, there is more. Rabbi Abraham Twerski teaches us in Twerski on Spirituality, "Halachah (Torah Law) requires that a person should forgive anyone who offers an apology for his behavior (Orach Chaim 606:3). The mussar works (Torah instructions on building character and ethics) add that we should forgive anyone who has offended us even if he does not offer an apology, and quotes the Talmud which states that if a person forgives others, he will merit forgiveness for his sins (T.B. Yoma 23a).
"The Baal Shem Tov interprets the verse 'God is your shadow' (Psalms 121:4) to mean that just as the shadow mimics a person's moves, so does God conduct Himself toward us according to the way we behave toward others. Hence, if we overlook misdeeds others have done to us, God will overlook our misdeeds.
"Halachah states that Divine forgiveness is effective only for those who believe that God forgives, but that if someone says, 'Of what purpose is Yom Kippur? My sins will never be forgiven anyway,' then he is indeed not forgiven. We must have faith in Divine forgiveness, for the prophet says, 'I have erased your sins like a fog that has dispersed' (Isaiah 44:22). Just as there is no residue of the fog, so there is no residue of a sin that has been forgiven, and we must be accepting of this."
Rabbi Twerski shares additional insights into forgiveness: "It is inconceivable that animals can forgive. Quite the contrary, legend has it that elephants never forget, and animals of higher intelligence seem to have excellent memories. Dogs will avoid someone who has hurt them in the past, and if sufficiently secure, may attack him. The capacity to forgive an offense is clearly a human feature.
"Spirituality can be attained by observance of Torah, the moral-ethical as well as the other mitzvos (commandments). The Torah prohibits you from taking revenge against someone who has offended you (Leviticus 19:18). It goes even one step further, in that if someone who offended you in the past now asks a favor of you, not only may you not take revenge by refusing him, but it is also forbidden to say, 'Yes, I will do it for you even though you do not deserve it, after the way you treated me. I am not like you.' You must do the favor without referring to his offense against you in the past.
"Inasmuch as one cannot act out a grudge in any way, what point is there in hanging onto the resentments? The person who offended you is not going to be affected in any way by your resentments against him, since you cannot act upon them.
"The only one who will be negatively affected is you, because it is the nature of resentments that they generate all kinds of misery: migraine headaches, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, and circulatory problems. Ironically, if you retain resentments against someone who offended you, you are harming yourself rather than him!
"Where is the logic in hurting yourself because someone else offended you? By forgiving the person and divesting yourself of the resentment against him, you are doing yourself the greater favor."
Carrying resentments and bearing a grudge is like letting someone live rent free in a one room apartment in your head. If you want forgiveness, give forgiveness. Then you make it possible for the Almighty to forgive you ... and you grow in spirituality by emulating the Almighty!
For more on "Forgiveness" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
The Torah portion is a song, a poem taught to the Jewish people by Moshe. It recounts the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people during the 40 years in the desert. Jewish consciousness, until the present generation, was to teach every Jewish child to memorize Ha'azinu. In this manner we internalized the lessons of our history, especially the futility of rebelling against the Almighty.
The portion ends with Moshe being told to ascend Mount Nevo to see the Promised Land before he dies and is "gathered to his people". By the way, this is one of the allusions to an afterlife in the Torah. Moshe died alone and no one knows where he is buried. Therefore, "gathered to his people" has a higher meaning!
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"My teachings shall come down to you as rain" (Deuteronomy 32:2).
What lesson for life can we learn from comparing Torah teachings to rain?
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, the former Rosh Hayeshiva (head) of the Mir Yeshiva, cites the Vilna Gaon that rain helps things grow - but only from what is already planted. If someone has planted vegetables or fruits, rain will help them develop. However, if there are poisonous mushrooms planted, rain will help them grow as well.
Similarly, Torah study makes one grow. However, it depends on one's character traits as to how he will develop. A person who has elevated traits will become a greatly elevated person; a person who has faulty character traits such as arrogance, selfishness or cruelty can become a real menace.
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What do we do to develop good character traits? There is a whole area of Torah learning called Mussar which focuses on developing good character and a spiritual connection to the Almighty. There are classical works including Path of the Just by Moshe Chaim Luzzato and Duties of the Heart. I also suggest that you search for works by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin and Rabbi Abraham Twerski. They are available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.
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