Quote of the day: FORGIVENESS

June 5, 2016


In Christianity, I believe, one is supposed to forgive others whether or not they know they did something wrong, whether or not they stop doing it. Jewish forgiveness is not this way. Maimonides wrote in the late twelfth century:

Repentance and Yom Kippur only atone for sins between Man and God. Sins between one man and his fellow are never forgiven until one pays up his debt and appeases his fellow. Even if he returns the money he owes he must still ask for forgiveness. He must appease and beseech until he is forgiven. If his fellow refuses to forgive him then he must bring a group of three of his friends (presumably the injured party’s friends) and go to him and ask him [for forgiveness]. If he still does not forgive him he must go to him a second and third time (with a different group of three people). If he still refuses to forgive him he may cease and the other is the sinner. If [the injured party] is his teacher (rebbe) he must go to him even a thousand times until he is forgiven. It is forbidden to be cruel and difficult to appease, rather, a person must be quick to forgive and difficult to anger and when the sinner asks for forgiveness he should forgive him willingly and wholeheartedly.

In other words, justice requires that the person causing the pain say that he caused it, take actions to undo it, and start an amends process. He must directly ask the harmed person for forgiveness three times. Like a lot of things in traditional Jewish culture, justice requires frank, truthful acknowledgement, recognition, and overt accountability on the part of the person who caused the pain. This is in strong contrast to a culture of passive forgiveness. “Father, they know not what they do,” Jesus said. The desire to “let things go and move on” because accountability is uncomfortable, troublesome, and difficult is very goyishe. This stark contrast proves, yet again, that the idea of “Judeo-Christian culture” is a fantasy. Jewish and Christian cultures are distinct, and they are motivated by very different value systems.

–Sarah Schulman, Israel/Palestine and the Queer International

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