A better description of forgiveness follows that I have not seen anywhere else. I am grateful to my friend, Rabbi Sharon Brous, for passing it along to me.
As we formally begin the High Holiday season this Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night) with the service of S’lichot (meaning – “forgiveness”), Jonathan Sacks offers us a way to think and be as we enter this season.
For those of you in Los Angeles, our synagogue’s “Sl’ichot in White” commences at 9 PM with a pre-service Oneg followed by Havdalah, and offerings of poetry, song, brief divrei Torah, reflections, and a service in which we formally change the regular Torah mantles to the gorgeous and stunning white mantles created for us 20 years ago by artist Laurie Gross for the High Holidays. We will conclude with the blast (t’kiyah g’dolah) of the shofar. My colleagues, Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh, Rabbi Jocee Hudson, Chazzan Danny Maseng, our Executive Director, Bill Shpall, our staff and leadership at TIOH welcome you.
“Forgiveness is more than a technique of conflict resolution. It is a stunningly original strategy. In a world without forgiveness, evil begets evil, harm generates harm, and there is no way short of exhaustion or forgetfulness of breaking the sequence. Forgiveness breaks the chain. It introduces into the logic of interpersonal encounter the unpredictability of grace. It represents a decision not to do what instinct and passion urge us to do. It answers hate with a refusal to hate, animosity with generosity. Few more daring ideas have ever entered the human situation. Forgiveness means that we are not destined endlessly to replay the grievances of yesterday. It is the ability to live with the past without being held captive by the past. It would not be an exaggeration to say that forgiveness is the most compelling testimony to human freedom. It is about the action that is not reaction. It is the refusal to be defined by circumstance. It represents our ability to change course, reframe the narrative of the past and create an unexpected set of possibilities for the future… Indeed there is none so self-righteous as one who carries the burden of self-perceived victimhood. But it is ultimately dehumanizing. More than hate destroys the hated, it destroys the hater.”
-Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Dignity of Difference, pps. 178-9