KJ Hannah Greenberg

By Dint of Need not Merit

During this season, we beseech the Almighty for acquittal. What’s more, we ask friends and family to overlook our trespasses. Unfortunately, we do not commonly press ourselves, likewise, to unsolicitedly cease our resentment toward other people.

This reality is a pity since an amazing ascension occurs when we absolve other lives because they need our exoneration, not because they merit it. When we freely grant understanding, not only do we reify that The Boss is in charge, in general, and in command of retribution, more specifically, but we empower the wrongdoers and ourselves to improve our character traits.

Accordingly, we ought to release our fellows, namely, the ones who have harmed us, from accountability. They benefit. We benefit. We bring peace to the world; G-d wants us to partner with Him in creating peace.

First, members of Am Yisrael, who have mistreated us, gain from our unearned consideration. Given our magnanimity, they can reenter dealings with us, become motivated to make better choices, rebuild their self-belief, and pass on benevolence to others.

Per returning to associations with us, excused “infractors,” like us, are merely mortals, i.e.,  are necessarily flawed. When they’re welcomed to reconnect, they blossom from a renewed sense of belongingness and purpose, improve their happiness, reduce their stress, and so forth.1 Attachments matter.

Additionally, by having their malefactions nullified, such affiliates are inspired to choose differently in the future. “Forgiving [an] offender ennobles him and sends him a message which enables him to correct his past habits.”2 In restoring someone else’s dignity, we “[change] the behavior of the person who is forgiven.”3 Self-fulfilling prophecy is a fact.4

Simply, when we go easy on individuals who have maltreated us, they’re able to increase their self-confidence. Improved self-trust enables them to develop greater trust in Hashem, into the bargain. Furthermore, being empowered by leniency helps men and women internalize the experience of condonation. Having adopted that proficiency, they’re better able to let bygones be bygones with their own colleagues. Hence, not only do the middot of pardoned contemporaries improve, but they’re able to help further parties change their attributes, too. In all, there are many advantages conferred upon souls upon whom we’ve had mercy.

Second, we, ourselves, flourish when providing so-called unwarranted clemency. We escape any isolation caused by our (hypocritical) unwillingness to interact with “damaged” presences. We unload the burden of acrimony. We’re able to live in a more serene society. We improve our bond with The Lord.

Not only is it vital for us to accept our own frailties, but, unless other personages’ deeds continue to be dangerous or destructive, it’s beneficial to equally accept their weaknesses. Our innermost selves were designed to need not only Hashem, but also each other. Our limitations are meant to spur us to look beyond ourselves. When we eliminate all affairs that have cracks in them, we eliminate all our links.

Moreover, shlepping rancor is onerous, produces darkness. “Before we can even get to the sweet, we need to eradicate the bitter….we project the bitterness of our insecurity[ies] into judgment of others.”5 We’re lighter, in several sense of the word, whenever we release our anger and revulsion.

Not only do our psychic shadows block our neshemot’s light, but, on top of that, withal, they cause great social damage. Consider that The Second Temple was destroyed because of such baseless hatred. For the odious exchanges between Kamtza and Bar Kamtza to have occurred unchallenged, our society had to have been corrupted. Recall that embarrassing someone is likened to shedding blood and that shedding blood is considered one of the three most egregious transgressions. Fortunately, we can repair such faults with baseless love.6

Forbye, when we’re compassionate, we not only enjoy transformed relationships with those peers against whom we’ve held grudges, but we also enjoy improved ties with the Aibishter. In forbearing, we emulate one of Hashem’s thirteen main qualities. Correspondingly, we provide Him with another reason to be kindhearted with us. “[L]et us be moved by the Almighty’s power of forgiveness to forgive others, to forgive ourselves, and to improve our ways so that we deserve His blessings for a blessed New Year.”7

Similarly, making allowances for our companions improves our bitachon, that is, it reinforces our trust that every happenstance, both those events that we perceive as “good” and those that we perceive as “bad,” are from Hashem. It’s not our efforts that steer our lives; goings-on are Heaven-sent  for our prosperity. Granting amnesty to individuals who have offended us helps us remember that fact.

Forgiving others by dint of need, not deservedness, helps them and us grow. “The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; that day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise” (Nowlan).8 IYH, we must take it upon ourselves, both in preparation for the approaching year, i.e., in purging ourselves of undesirable qualities, and as a level to which to aspire to maintain behavior during that year, to bear no malice toward folks who have hurt us because they and we need us to remit them.

  1. “Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health” [sic]. “Healthy Lifestyle.” Mayo Clinic. Accessed 10 Sep. 2023.


  1. Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb. “The Rich Fruits of Forgiveness.” Torah Tidbits. 26 Aug. 2023. Accessed 3 Sep. 2023, 20-22.
  2. Lee Jussim. “Self-fulfilling Prophecies.” International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. N. J. Smelser and P. B. Balte. Kidlington, United Kingdom: Elsevier Science, 2001. rpt. in “Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.” Science Direct. Accessed 11 Sep. 2023.
  3. Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum. “Parashat Nitzavim—Uprooting the Bitter or Making it [sic] Sweet?” “Nature in the Parsha.” Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin. 2015. Accessed 10 Sep. 2023.
  4. Rabbi Yehudah Sherpin. “Why were the Temples Destroyed?” org. Accessed 8 Sep. 2023.
  5. Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb. “The Rich Fruits of Forgiveness.”
  6. Alden Nowlan. Between Tears and Laughter: Select Poems. Irwin Clarke, 1971.
About the Author
KJ Hannah Greenberg has been playing with words for an awfully long time. Initially a rhetoric professor and a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, she shed her academic laurels to romp around with a prickle of imaginary hedgehogs. Thereafter, her writing has been nominated once for The Best of the Net in poetry, three times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for poetry, once for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for fiction, once for the Million Writers Award for fiction, and once for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. To boot, Hannah’s had more than forty books published and has served as an editor for several literary journals.