Rosh Hashanah 2013 – God Forgives Those Who Forgive Others


Rav Huna the son of Rav Yehoshua became ill. Rav Pappa went up to inquire about him, and saw that Rav Huna was on the brink of death. Rav Pappa told the people around him, “Supply him with provisions for his journey (i.e. dress him in burial shrouds).” In the end, however, Rav Huna recovered. Rav Pappa was embarrassed to face him. They said to Rav Huna, “What did you see?” He said, “Indeed it was as Rav Pappa said – I was about to die, but at the last moment, the Holy One, Blessed is He, said to the Heavenly Tribunal, ‘Since he does not stand on his principle, do not take a strict stand against him.’ As it is stated, He pardons transgression and overlooks sin. Whose transgression does He pardon? One who overlooks sins committed against himself.” (Rosh Hashanah 17a, Talmud Bavli, Schottenstein Edition)

This year I approach the Days of Awe with great trepidation. I am no Sage. I am neither as righteous nor as pious, not as learned nor as successful, as Rav Huna and Rav Pappa. These Sages of blessed memory were close friends, spiritual leaders, and wealthy partners in the beer business. How they balanced all those responsibilities is a mystery to me. I feel like my to-do list gets longer every day, even the high-priority items.

One such overdue item is posting a new piece here on “>Huffington Post in relation to history and politics, often channeling my Talmud energy into Abraham Lincoln-related insights that help me reach a broader audience, and thus spread the word about my new film, “>When Do We Eat? and “>Facebook.com/AccidentalTalmudist, where I try to post a bit of our tribe’s ancient wisdom every day. Even if you are not on Facebook, you can visit the page and see the posts. It’s a valuable forum because it’s easy to comment, discussion flows freely, and we’ve formed a vibrant community of 8,000+ people who enjoy walking the path toward wisdom together.

Rav Huna teaches us that the Lord forgives those who forgive others. I remember a great phrase from Jonathan Franzen’s novel, The Corrections, in which a character is continually “compiling evidence” of her victimhood at the hands of loved ones. Oy! Terrible idea, and yet, we all do it. We’ve got to let go of that stuff, so we can move forward. There’s just not enough time in our days, nor in our lifetimes, for that junk.

Rav Huna’s story also reminded me that “letting go” applies to more than the grudges we nurse over deep hurts and years of aggravation. It’s also about not “standing on principle” when that principle blocks the ways of peace. In other words, being right is not so important. Recognizing that we all make clumsy mistakes, and that we do it all the time, goes much further. Once we enter that frame of mind, we’ll be much slower to create those grudges in the first place. If on the other hand, we don't pursue the forgiving frame of mind, then we won't really make any positive change at all, and we’ll find ourselves regretting a whole new crop of grudges next year.

My prayer for all of us is that we treat one another with a little more forgiveness in the coming year, emulating the humility and friendship of Rav Huna and Rav Pappa. And may we all be blessed with infinite health, sweetness, friendship and prosperity! L’shanah tovah! 

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Sal shares a bit of Jewish wisdom at “>accidentaltalmudist.org.

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