Monday, December 24, 2012

Vayigash Sermon

This Shabbat we discussed forgiveness given the extraordinary example of Joseph found in the portion.  Joseph forgives his brothers even though some wanted to kill him and all ended up selling him into slavery.  Interestingly we do no read if their father Jacob forgives the brothers.  Nonetheless Joseph serves as a model of forgiveness and an entry for our discussion.  We examined Moses Maimonides insights from the Mishneh Torah.  Here is that text:
Repentance and Yom Kippur only atone for sins between man and God; for example, a person who ate a forbidden food or engaged in forbidden sexual relations, and the like. However, sins between man and man; for example, someone who injures a colleague, curses a colleague, steals from him, or the like will never be forgiven until he gives his colleague what he owes him and appeases him.

[It must be emphasized that] even if a person restores the money that he owes [the person he wronged], he must appease him and ask him to forgive him. Even if a person only upset a colleague by saying [certain] things, he must appease him and approach him [repeatedly] until he forgives him.

If his colleague does not desire to forgive him, he should bring a group of three of his friends and approach him with them and request [forgiveness]. If [the wronged party] is not appeased, he should repeat the process a second and third time. If he [still] does not want [to forgive him], he may let him alone and need not pursue [the matter further]. On the contrary, the person who refuses to grant forgiveness is the one considered as the sinner.

[The above does not apply] if [the wronged party] was one's teacher. [In that instance,] a person should continue seeking his forgiveness, even a thousand times, until he forgives him. (Mishneh Torah, Repentance 2:9)
Although forgiveness is difficult to grant it is required to sustain our relationships, especially long term relationships.  Judaism insists that it is demanded and even commanded.  Granting forgiveness is a mitzvah.  Withholding forgiveness is therefore a sin.  Only forgiveness can liberate us from the despair of holding a grudge.  Anger corrodes the soul.  Forgiveness redeems.  It rescues relationships.  Redemption begins with "I'm sorry."

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