Harry Zeitlin
Harry Zeitlin
Grateful Every Day, Modeh Ani Lefanecha!

First Thoughts On Rosh Hashana 5782

I’m not sure that Tshuva has much to do with forgiving. Or, at least, our forgiving, and I’d argue that we shouldn’t pro-actively forgive anyone who’s truly harmed us before they ask. Not to be disrespectful, but that sounds a lot more like “Turn the other Cheek” Christianity, which is so understandable since most of us grew up under a mixed fabric of Judeo-Christian Ethics, which for all it’s fancy title, really had little to do with traditional Jewish values and teachings.

In terms of Halacha, we’re supposed to ask forgiveness from everyone we harmed over the past year. Once asked, although we’re not commanded to, it’s advised that, given certain criteria, we do forgive. But I would argue that forgiving someone who hasn’t actually asked you, rather than being generous, steals the mitzvah of asking from them. It reminds of of how my great teacher, Rabbi Shloime Twerski zt”l would never let someone walk through the congregation with the tzedaka pushka even though that’s standard practice in almost every shul I’ve ever been in. He felt that at least part of why someone would give in that situation is because someone is standing there, asking, rather than walking up on your own because your heart calls you to give.

In another directions, we’re instructed to try to imitate The Creator, and The Creator will always forgive (but only if it actually benefits the one who’s asking—blanket “amnesty” can encourage people to “sin” because they know it will be wiped away….). And My ways are not your ways—we aren’t equipped to understand why God does anything.

The subtleties of Chazal, our sages, is so deep.

About the Author
After almost 30 years, Harry Zeitlin returned home to Jerusalem! Growing up in Denver, CO, he began Torah studies at an early age. He also had the privilege of knowing and studying with Rabbi Shloime Twerski zt"l. He graduated from Yale College (BA 1974) with an independent degree in communications, theory-and-practice, focusing on filmmaking and linguistics. Harry had a 45+ year career as a professional artist (photography, to which he is just now returning!) and has played guitar for more than 50 years, in addition to his 30+ years as an orthodox rabbi teaching Torah across the denominational spectrum. He lived in Israel from 1982 - 1989 and returned in 2016. I'M BACK! Grateful every day! Follow his spiritual adventures. He is always available to speak, teach, present a Shabbaton or other workshop. ......or to serenade your group with his guitar.
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