Inspired by Reb Kalonymos Kalman's ideal of a group of people coming together with the common goal of enhancing their service of God, increasing their sensitivity to all things spiritual, strengthening their love of acheinu kol beis Yisrael, and unlocking the enormous potential that we all have to cleave to the Almighty.

Interaction and discussion of practical ideas and concepts toward this end, culled from any Torah true source is welcome and appreciated.

Observations and personal experiences are also welcome; the point is to grow!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Yamim Nora'im Prep part I

As Rosh HaShana draws nearer, we begin brushing up on our hilchot Teshuva. A very significant factor is the aspect of forgiveness not only between us and God, but between us and our fellow man. I have seen numerous times an emphasis on how to gain forgiveness from people that we may have wronged in one fashion or another, but less focus on granting forgiveness.

Naturally, there are many deterrents to our ability to forgive others, despite the fact that the RaMBaM tells us that we should be quick to forgive. Human nature is that we have a very long memory when it comes to perceived slights and injustices experienced.

Over the course of the next three posts - God willing - I am going to present three separate eitzot that lend themselves to the concept of forgiving others. While each suggestion/exercise can be taken as three disparate ideas, I do believe that they complement each other. Moreover, they can be done in any number of combinations, although the order in which I present them display a progression, of sorts. It is important to note that these are not the only ideas, of course, and that there are many effective ways to reach the goal we are aiming for; these ideas resonate with me for personal reasons, and have an overarching effect in their scope.

The first idea was shown to me a few years ago, and addresses an attitudinal aspect of the concept of forgiveness. In this vein, we are taught a method that practically forces us to forgive someone, for our own sake and our best interests.

In Nesivos Ohr, Rav Yisroel Salanter OBM explains the Talmudic concept of "Yesh lo ta'arumos" ("he has complaints"). Rather than being a postscript comment on the outcome of a particular legal case, Rav Salanter asserts that this is an actual ruling, distinct from the legal rulings of reparations or remunerations. In such an instance of "he has complaints [on the defendant]" we see that although the defendant is not obligated to pay any money, he must still deal with the plaintiff's complaint, in which case the plaintiff is encouraged to be "mochel" the grievance, so long as the defendant makes a sincere effort to placate him and make peace.

Rav Salanter then draws a comparison to this aspect of mechila vis-a-vis ta'arumos and the practical  application that mechila can play in actual litigation. For instance, if Reuven is owed money, he can opt to be mochel the loan - without any material acquisition. However, if Reuven later regrets his mechila and decides to pursue the debt that was previously owed to him, then this is gezel gamur - actual stealing - because he has already absolved the debt through his mechila. Similarly, if one has an instance where he has the right to harbor ta'arumos against his friend, and his friend subsequently pacifies him and earns his mechila - he can no longer harbor any ill-will towards the offender. In fact, to do so after granting forgiveness is considered to be a grave sin against his friend.

It is at this point that Rav Yisroel offers up his eitza towards abolishing the negative trait of kapdanut and intensifying the idea of mechila:

If a man sins against his fellow, either through speech or action: [the offended should] forgive him immediately, with verbal acknowledgement. Then, if he begins to feel resentful of [the offender], he should remind himself that this is a grave sin. Just as the one who reneges on his absolution of a debt is known by all to be a thief, the same applies to the one who retracts his forgiveness for a prior grievance.

The above is a seemingly counterintuitive way of approaching the concept of forgiveness, but in a display of deep psychological insight, Rav Salanter shows us a way in which we can literally force ourselves to maintain an attitude of forgiveness, rather than allow ourselves to commit an even greater sin.

This suggestion can be used as a very basic step towards forgiveness; one can even say that it is a seemingly "begrudging" approach to the idea of mechila. Even so, it's brilliance demonstrates how seriously we need to take the granting of forgiveness to others...

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