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3 Elul 5783

Cantor David Bentley

Cantor Emeritus, Temple Shalom Gold Coast, Queensland

This time of year we focus on the gift of forgiveness. Our tradition teaches us to seek it not only from the Divine but also from those people we have wronged. The other side of the coin is that we should expect to be approached by those who seek forgiveness from us.

Our tradition is wise enough to know that forgiveness is not always forthcoming, no matter how sincerely the wrongdoer regrets what they’ve done. Forgiveness may be sought but we are not required to give it.

If we refuse, is that really the end of the story?

Consider this Buddhist parable:

Two monks were taking a long journey through a forest. Upon reaching a river they encountered a woman who was unable to cross on her own. Despite having taken a sacred vow to never touch a woman, the older monk agreed to let her ride on his shoulders as he crossed the river. The next day, his younger companion, still troubled by this breach of their sacred oath, finally complained to his teacher. The older monk replied, “I put her down yesterday. Why are you still carrying her?”

We often feel hurt when wronged. No matter how deep or shallow the hurt, until we forgive, we are still carrying it and it weighs us down. The wrongdoer shouldn’t expect a free pass – but by forgiving, we can lay aside the burden of hurt even as we seek appropriate redress.

There are many ways that we wrong each other. There may be just as many ways to forgive. It might be as simple as accepting that what’s done is done. Or it might need much more. No matter how we do it, setting aside past hurt allows us to walk on with a lighter step.

See more Elul Reflections