Monday, September 08, 2008


It's that time of year again, when Jews all over the world start to think about the Jewish Forgiveness Trifecta: (1) What they are sorry for, (2) To whom they should ask for forgiveness and (3) What constitutes appropriate amends.

According to rabbinical tradition, if you ask for forgiveness and make reparations, then the person to whom you have asked forgiveness and made reparations MUST forgive you.

We talked about that today at a workshop at my synagogue for the parents and children involved in the religious school. It was a rather unsatisfying discussion in that it raised far more questions than provided answers (thus, reminding me of law school; damn Socratic method of teaching).

Questions raised:

1. What IS forgiveness? Is it an emotion or an action? And if it is an emotion, then is it even possible for someone to be obligated to forgive? How does one compell a feeling?

2. Aren't some bad acts unforgivable? If a nazi asks a Jew for forgiveness for the nazi's actions in murdering Jews during the Holocaust, must the Jew forgive? If a child molester asks for forgiveness from the parents of a victim, must they forgive? If the answer is no, is it because there is simply no possible reparation?

3. How does forgiveness figure into the politics and polemics of the Middle East? Would forgiveness on an individual level help to bring about forgiveness on a cultural level? And if so, is forgiveness in this set of circumstances even possible? Is it possible for it NOT to be possible?

I thought I'd bring up these nuggets before mentioning that I played the role of the Lady Who Lunches today, meeting my friend S in New Canaan at a restaurant frequented by Richard Gere. Unfortunately, he was not there today. But lunch was delicious, and S and I talked about politics, gardening, yoga and whether we want to go back to work, now or ever. She and I were roommates in law school, and we both had some success in our careers before leaving it behind. She is more inclined to go back to work than I am. I quite enjoy my leisurely life.

Nevertheless, I had an odd dream early this morning, an interesting and disturbing prologue to our lunch. In the dream, S had a great job, and I didn't work. And she was happy and fulfilled, and I was anxious and uncomfortable and desperate to find work that would make me happy. I found it strange that my subconscious might be providing me with enough ambivalence about my life choices that my conscious need not even be bothered. Except when for whatever reason, my conscious mind remembers the dream and then feels grumpy all day about it.

Still, and this is for my fans out in the far Northwest: I luv being a lady who lunches. If you watch Madmen, then you will know what I mean when I say, I am totally a Betty. I've even taken to wearing a-line shirt dresses...with crinoline. Seriously. That's what I wore last night to the country club my friend J and her family invited us to as their guests. Ah, the good life.

Practice did kind of suck after a two course lunch, two sodas and the large coffee I had at the gas station in Pound Ridge on the way home. But I was proud of myself for practicing, when I knew it would suck.

And that made it kind of good.



DebPC said...

Sometimes I think forgiveness just means letting it (the offending act) go. It does not necessarily absolve the wrongdoer, nor does it make their action right or "all better". It simply means that you are not keeping it alive and burning inside yourself by continuing to be angry or haunted or whatever by it. Your forgiveness is a personal act of kindness toward yourself, allowing yourself to move on rather than stay tortured by and stuck in the past.

And yeah, pretty cool about the radio show. I don't think anyone listens to it but still...

boodiba said...

Forgiveness is difficult. I find gratitude easier. It's simpler to direct my thoughts toward thing that are good & rewarding, rather than try to coerce a feeling that doesn't necessarily want to come.

Anonymous said...

Seeking answers from religion is like getting perfume from a skunk-you'll get a response, but it always stinks.

I asked one of my rabbis when I was a kid why god commanded Joshua to kill not just the men of the peoples living in Canaan (the old one, not the Connecticut version replete with country clubs) including the women, children, livestock, pets, etc. He told me that when god was searching for a people to accept his law, he went to all other groups before the jews (last but not least, eh?) and every one of them rejected him and his law. Therefore, they were fair game for total annihilation. This was a rabbi's answer to a child. This is why religious "education" is nothing more than the brainwashing of a cult. It is why religious education is child abuse. I am physically sick when I recall the rationalizations of my so-called learned teachers.

Yoga Chickie said...

Daren - Is this your way of telling me I'm not invited to my nephew's bar mitzvah?!

Anonymous said...

I think the plan is to form a group of culturally identified Jews in our area dedicated to raising our children free of brainwashing dogma. We likely will have a bar mitzvah, though it will be one of our own design. And you, most certainly, will be invited!

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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.

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