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Joshua Cypess
+ Your AuthorsArchive @JoshuaCypess He/his. PhD social scientist & Orthodox Rabbi. We're all in this together. #BlackLivesMatter #Steelers #Mets #Resist Sep. 05, 2021 3 min read

1/ #ReshetKeshet
Before #RoshHashanah there's a common practice to utter a blanket request for forgiveness. E.g. "To everyone I know or encountered please forgive me. OK bye!"

You're correct in thinking that this depersonalized superficial "apology" is hollow & thus ineffective.

2/ How can I forgive someone if they don't know what they did to me? Doesn't admit real guilt, express regret, detail how they will work towards restitution, or describe how they will fix their mentality/behavior to avoid hurting me in the future.

3/ However, #RoshHashanah is a dangerous time of year. Tradition understands the stakes are the highest possible. It's an annual review before the King of Kings, arbiter of justice, and we treat it like the final exam worth 100% of our grade.

4/ Even if we're a mess in every area of our lives, on RH we must show the basic respect of the relationship with God. Every other day of the year there is compassion, wiggle-room, delay before assessment & punishment. Not on Yom Ha-Din, the Day of Judgement.

5/ If we don't respect the day's gravity we fail a fundamental test. It's much like the effectiveness of prayer: I cannot expect my prayers to be fulfilled, but the act of requesting God through prayer demonstrates I understand the covenant & my role within its structure.

6/ A blanket request for forgiveness is a prayer in that sense. It may not work to appease the wronged, but it may induce people towards "chein" (grace), to take pity & not hold grudges.

That can be good: holding baseless, egotistical, grudges is a sin 

7/ What I do every year is offer a blanket, conditional, forgiveness: I forgive you if you've done teshuva.

Teshuva means: regret, shame, promise/plan to restore & repair and confessing to the person you've wronged.

So I forgive those who've done every step but the last one.

8/ This is the limit of my kindness. I can't be so churlish to deny someone a clean slate on the Day of Judgement if they haven't been able to finish the technical parts of repentance. But if they haven't done teshuva, then I just can't forgive them.

9/ I'm a rabbi & philosopher so l also accept many, many mitigating factors. Some people don't know they've wronged me and/or did so without intention, or even without negligence. Life is tough; I know this. These too, I forgive. And recommend others forgive these too.

10/ Moreover, this is a time when I need to be extra circumspect and self-critical. Days of judgement are days of Truth. So if I have wronged you, I'm ready to hear how and I commit myself to recognizing my crimes, sins, and errors.

That's a blanket request. Tell me, please.

11/ I don't know if I project a prickly demeanor that prevents people from telling me I hurt them. Most people don't react well to criticism and I'm likely guilty of being arrogant or off-putting in addition to that.

I promise to accept the reprimand.

12/ It's true that one of the biggest gifts to the B'nai Brit Sinai is #YomKippur: a way to get a generous reprieve for an inevitably harsh review on #RoshHashanah

All the other nations with their Brit Keshet's 7 mitzvot do not have this gift.

13/ #RoshHashanah is the day of judgement for the entire world. Every person is subject to a covenant with God and that's the nature of the day's judgement. RH is a universal holiday, and so my request for, and offer of, forgiveness is universal.

14/ When I was involved with conversions, I would try to ensure that the person was able to get to the mikvah before YK because that's a gift too valuable to deny if it's so close to being attained. In my mind, and in theirs if I taught them well, it's a matter of life & death.

15/ RH is tomorrow night. I forgive everyone with the conditions I described above. I release all my groundless grudges. I ask anyone who I've wronged to please tell me now, or before #YomKippur, so I can make amends before I stand in judgement.

16/ #ReshetKeshet #RoshHashanah #Teshuva #Forgiveness #Covenant #YomKippur #Torah


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