This week in the epic and enthralling tale of the Jews in exile we have left our protagonists in a battle of faith and forgiveness. Parshat Nitzavim is a retelling of the story of the covenant with the Jews and Mt Sinai, through the eyes of Moshe.
In this parsha God is preparing Am Yisrael to accept the covenant and become a people of faith and devotion. The oath is promised to all that are there and to all the future Jewish people.
However, as the old saying goes, “if it seems too good to be true…it probably is.” The promise of a guiding figure providing you with a land, purpose, safety and security is a pretty good deal. Just one thing though…”if you disagree and don’t do exactly as I say, I will mess you and your offspring up big time.” That was slightly paraphrased, but the point is still there and when God says that he who has “stubbornness in his heart shall not be pardoned ever”, it raises an interesting point about forgiveness and the responsibility we have over our mistakes and turning them into positive experiences.
Now I am no angel and have made my fair share of mistakes and decisions I regret. Eventually when pride and ego fade away actions are generally followed with an apology and hopefully one day forgiveness. But sometimes they are not. Sometimes not being forgiven is worse than the original anger. For example, when I would do something that enraged my mum and we would have it out at the bench in the kitchen, we would say things we would soon come to regret and it would be a heated ‘discussion’ and the phrases, “I’m not yelling, you’re yelling…I’m only yelling cause you’re yelling,” would often be in play.
Eventually after a few hours of contemplation and a few words from my sister I would realize I was wrong, as all sons do, and apologize to my mum for the way things occurred. As tough as the original argument was nothing was tougher then the blank look and silent treatment I received for the next 2 days. It was torture I couldn’t handle it, why couldn’t she just forgive me? After days of awkward silence in the house, we would sit at the table one night and she would ask me to pass the salt. Relief. I had been forgiven.
It was then that I realized anyone can spurt out the words, I’m sorry. They’re just words and require zero follow up. As a Madrich and an educator I have had many chanichim tell me they are sorry for their actions and then proceed to do it all again. Saying sorry is 20% of the job, the forgiver holds the responsibility. It takes a strong person to forgive.
In parshat Nitzavim lack of faith in God lead to exile and despair. However in time God concedes to forgive the sinners and take them back with love. I like this lesson because it makes you think about the responsibility you have to one another, to forgive and live in happiness and joy.
I think Ghandi said it best when he said, “The weak can never forgive, forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”