It is the season of forgiveness. It is that time of year when we, the beinonim (in between), choose our “arc.” We choose redemption or we choose damnation. I believe every human being has a redemption arc option, an “alternate storyline.” Everyone loves a great redemption arc in our fiction (Theon Greyjoy in “Game of Thrones” anyone?). And everyone loves a good alternate ending. What would have happened to the bad guy if only… We love these story lines because we want to believe that we, too, can be redeemed, that we won’t be permanently judged by the mistakes in our past.
So, where did “cancel culture” come from? It seems so un-Jewish to think that a person is beyond redemption because of a mistake that they made in their past, that every good thing they have done since can be completely voided. The judging parties appear to be trying to prove that the person is a hypocrite, that all of their good deeds must be a ruse.
Does a mistake in someone’s past truly make them a hypocrite or just human? Maybe things are not so black and white and we are all beinonim; not fully righteous or fully wicked. A little bit good and a little bit bad. The important thing about our past is that it is in the past and we choose to move forward. When we do tashlich, we say, “He will take us back in love; He will cover up our iniquities. You will cast all your sins into the depths of the sea,” (Micah 7:19). Why can’t we do this for each other? We all want to be forgiven, yet find it so difficult to forgive. Instead of “cancelling” someone, maybe we could take the opportunity to educate them about the impact of their past behavior and why it might be considered offensive. Let’s help them back up onto their redemption arc rather than pushing them into a different arc.
On Rosh Hashanah, we have a uniquely scheduled time to in our lives to climb back onto our own redemption arc and forgive others for slipping off of theirs. For 5780, let’s commit to looking at the totality of a person and give them a chance to find their redemption before we take away that option and “cancel” them. Wouldn’t you also want someone to do the same for you?
“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” – Hillel the Elder.