Forgiveness.

To discuss Jewish topics and issues

Moderator: Moderators

Post Reply
User avatar
JoeyKnothead
Under Probation
Posts: 16718
Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2008 10:59 am
Location: Here

Forgiveness.

Post #1

Post by JoeyKnothead »

Does the Jewish faith hold a concept of "forgiveness" - where such is nigh on universal and available to all who harm others?

I'm curious to know in light of past (and current?) atrocities inflicted on Jews, and how current thought may apply. Surely there must be some concept that past abuses, where apologized for, atoned for or such, would lead to healing.

My understanding - as weak and amateur as it is - is that God would punish generations for the transgressions of a relative few. How could 'we' ever start to forgive if this concept of "generational punishment" were in effect?

cnorman18

Re: Forgiveness.

Post #2

Post by cnorman18 »

joeyknuccione wrote:
Does the Jewish faith hold a concept of "forgiveness" - where such is nigh on universal and available to all who harm others?
In a word, no. See below.

I'm curious to know in light of past (and current?) atrocities inflicted on Jews, and how current thought may apply. Surely there must be some concept that past abuses, where apologized for, atoned for or such, would lead to healing.
Healing is a separate concept from forgiveness. The former is possble, for both survivors and perpetrators; the latter is not.

My understanding - as weak and amateur as it is - is that God would punish generations for the transgressions of a relative few. How could 'we' ever start to forgive if this concept of "generational punishment" were in effect?
The concept of forgiveness, in the Jewish religion, is a bit different from that of Christians.

For starters, we have no teaching on how, or even whether, God "punishes" people for their sins. It seems clear in Scripture that the Hebrews believed that God would, and did, punish the whole people for the whole people's transgressions; but for individuals, that's not so clear. Some say that suffering is a natural consequence of sin - adultery can lead to public humiliation and the loss of one's family and goods, for instance. Some even say that the same applies to collective punishment of the whole people. In any case, Judaism has no specific teachings about punishment or reward in the afterlife, and it's very clear indeed that justice isn't always served in this life.

So, the idea of forgiveness isn't necessarily related to that of punishment. That's characteristic of Judaism; it's good to behave properly for its own sake, not just because one might be punished; and in the same way, it's better to be forgiven than not, but not necessarily just because one might get spanked.

More critical is the idea, in Judaism, that only the entity sinned against has the power or the right to forgive. If Zzyzx punches you in the nose, and I say, "I forgive you," how does Zzyzx feel about that? How do YOU feel about that? My own instinct would be to say, "What the hell business is it of yours?"

In the same way, in the Jewish faith, God can forgive only sins against Himself; broken vows, ritual offenses, and like that. If I commit a sin against another human being, God Himself has no right nor power to forgive that, but only that human being. That's justice, if you like.

This explains why even Christians sometimes feel their skin crawl when a convicted murder says to the family of his victim, "God has forgiven me; why can't you?" We know, instinctively, that that is somehow a falsehood. And this is why: God can't forgive that murder. In fact, there can be no forgiveness for murder at all; the only person with the power to forgive that crime is dead. That's why it's the most heinous crime there is.

There are no free pardons in Judaism. If you wrong another human being, you can be forgiven for that wrong only by asking the person you hurt. If you wrong God, you fast and pray (on Yom Kippur) and perform deeds of lovingkindness, and hope that's enough.

I hasten to emphasize, again, that Jews make no claims about what happens as a result of unforgiven sins. We don't know. No one can speak for God on that, and He's not saying.

That also explains the Jewish attitude toward the Holocaust. Those who ask us to forgive that crime must understand this; it is not in our power to forgive it. Only the six million have that power or that right. I don't, nor does any Jew. Ask the dead for forgiveness, and see if you get an answer.

User avatar
JoeyKnothead
Under Probation
Posts: 16718
Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2008 10:59 am
Location: Here

Post #3

Post by JoeyKnothead »

From Post 2:

As usual my friend, well said and informative. I'd also like to apologize for a sense of stereotyping or overly broad generalizations, real or perceived...
cnorman18 wrote: That also explains the Jewish attitude toward the Holocaust. Those who ask us to forgive that crime must understand this; it is not in our power to forgive it. Only the six million have that power or that right. I don't, nor does any Jew. Ask the dead for forgiveness, and see if you get an answer.
That's it in a nutshell there.

The OP is brought about because I have much respect for the current generation of Germans, having lived among them and enjoyed their friendship - and honestly never seeing or hearing anti-Jewish sentiment. I was in a discussion recently about this, and about my firm support for Israel / Jews, and the perception I may be "two-faced" in "loving the ones who harmed the Jews".

Is any "squaring" of my "dual support" possible, according to the Jewish perspective?

cnorman18

Forgiveness.

Post #4

Post by cnorman18 »

joeyknuccione wrote:From Post 2:

As usual my friend, well said and informative. I'd also like to apologize for a sense of stereotyping or overly broad generalizations, real or perceived...
cnorman18 wrote: That also explains the Jewish attitude toward the Holocaust. Those who ask us to forgive that crime must understand this; it is not in our power to forgive it. Only the six million have that power or that right. I don't, nor does any Jew. Ask the dead for forgiveness, and see if you get an answer.
That's it in a nutshell there.

The OP is brought about because I have much respect for the current generation of Germans, having lived among them and enjoyed their friendship - and honestly never seeing or hearing anti-Jewish sentiment. I was in a discussion recently about this, and about my firm support for Israel / Jews, and the perception I may be "two-faced" in "loving the ones who harmed the Jews".

Is any "squaring" of my "dual support" possible, according to the Jewish perspective?
Of course. For starters, the generations that committed that atrocity are almost entirely gone; the Germans of today bear no guilt in that matter, excepting those who still believe in Naziism. For another, Germany as a nation has renounced and denounced Naziism in the most unequivocal and absolute terms; the Nazi party and the display of symbols of the Third Reich are both illegal in Germany today. Unlike the Japanese, the German people have acknowledged the misdeeds of their ancestors and teach the Holocaust in schools, whereas the Japanese still don't admit to the Rape of Nanking and other war crimes.

There are Jews who refuse to drive German cars, e.g., but that's a matter of ignorance. Germany, since WWII, has been one of Israel's staunchest allies and a friend to the Jewish people.

The Holocaust cannot be forgiven; but it is, after all, in the past. We of the present day ought to be aware of the past and remember it, but it doesn't have to determine all that follows. Life goes on.

User avatar
JoeyKnothead
Under Probation
Posts: 16718
Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2008 10:59 am
Location: Here

Re: Forgiveness.

Post #5

Post by JoeyKnothead »

cnorman18 wrote:
joeyknuccione wrote:From Post 2:

As usual my friend, well said and informative. I'd also like to apologize for a sense of stereotyping or overly broad generalizations, real or perceived...
cnorman18 wrote: That also explains the Jewish attitude toward the Holocaust. Those who ask us to forgive that crime must understand this; it is not in our power to forgive it. Only the six million have that power or that right. I don't, nor does any Jew. Ask the dead for forgiveness, and see if you get an answer.
That's it in a nutshell there.

The OP is brought about because I have much respect for the current generation of Germans, having lived among them and enjoyed their friendship - and honestly never seeing or hearing anti-Jewish sentiment. I was in a discussion recently about this, and about my firm support for Israel / Jews, and the perception I may be "two-faced" in "loving the ones who harmed the Jews".

Is any "squaring" of my "dual support" possible, according to the Jewish perspective?
Of course. For starters, the generations that committed that atrocity are almost entirely gone; the Germans of today bear no guilt in that matter, excepting those who still believe in Naziism. For another, Germany as a nation has renounced and denounced Naziism in the most unequivocal and absolute terms; the Nazi party and the display of symbols of the Third Reich are both illegal in Germany today. Unlike the Japanese, the German people have acknowledged the misdeeds of their ancestors and teach the Holocaust in schools, whereas the Japanese still don't admit to the Rape of Nanking and other war crimes.

There are Jews who refuse to drive German cars, e.g., but that's a matter of ignorance. Germany, since WWII, has been one of Israel's staunchest allies and a friend to the Jewish people.

The Holocaust cannot be forgiven; but it is, after all, in the past. We of the present day ought to be aware of the past and remember it, but it doesn't have to determine all that follows. Life goes on.
Dang you're wise, even as this seems apparent after reading.

User avatar
Jrosemary
Sage
Posts: 627
Joined: Sun Jul 12, 2009 6:50 pm
Location: New Jersey
Contact:

Post #6

Post by Jrosemary »

Oooh! Great question, Joey. Sorry I missed it during my long absense--but CNorman answered brilliantly (as usual) so it doesn't signify. O:)

I'll just add that, traditionally, a Jew will try to reconcile with anyone she's wronged in the past year during the 'Days of Awe'--the days between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. (Of course, you should do this all the time, but if you haven't been able to bring yourself to apologize to someone the whole rest of the year, the Days of Awe are the time to do so.)

This tradition has led to some funny scenes on The Colbert Report, as Colbert has, in the past, set up a special hotline during the Days of Awe that Jews can call to apologize to him for anything they'd like. :roll: #-o :lol:

Post Reply