Forgiveness and Remembrance

In a few hours, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, will begin. For the past few years, I have attended Kol Nidrei services on the eve of Yom Kippur, not at the synagogue where I usually pray, but at the local community centre where the service is always followed by an open discussion. The subject tonight is “What am I (not) prepared to forgive?”

I started thinking about that and I realised that it is not always easy to distinguish between forgiveness and forgetfulness. I think of  people who have injured me by word or deed over the years and even if I forgive them – or think I have – I have not forgotten what they did.  So – does that mean I have not truly forgiven them? That I still bear a grudge?
What, in fact, is the essence of forgiveness?  What does it mean?

One says: “Forgive and forget”. But not always. Sometimes we say: “Forgive – but do not forget.” In other cases, such as when we speak of the Holocaust, for example,  we say plainly: “We do not forgive. We do not forget.”
Those who tried to destroy us, we do not forget.

We are not a People who forgets. We remember – everything.  We are enjoined to remember Amalek.  And this was in the sense of taking revenge. King Saul was commanded by God to wipe out the very name of Amalek but disobeyed and spared their king, Agag, who was then executed by the Prophet Samuel.

We even institute festivals and fasts, for the purpose of remembering. On Tisha B’Av, we remember how our enemies (first the Babylonians, then the Romans) destroyed our holy Temple and crushed our nation. On Purim, we remember our deliverance from Haman who attempted to exterminate the entire Jewish nation. Coincidentally (or not), Haman was a descendant of the Amalekite king whom Saul spared. And we celebrate (there is no other word for it) his downfall. Or are we celebrating our deliverance, rather than the fact that our enemy got his just deserts?  I suppose it depends on your point of view.

So – is it possible to forgive and yet remember? Is it truly possible to wipe the slate clean of the wish for revenge, or at least restitution, while retaining the memory of the injury? Does the answer to this question depend on the degree of injury?

What do you think?

Gmar Hatima Tova            גמר חתימה טובה

 

 

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About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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3 Responses to Forgiveness and Remembrance

  1. CATachresis says:

    Interesting question! I guess some things are difficult to forgive AND forget. I kind of think that if the “not forgetting” doesn’t involve feelings of anger and revenge then that probably is ok. It shows one has moved on. Also it is possible a person might need to remember when a wrong is perpetrated against them in order that they are prepared should it happen again! This is just an off the cuff response!
    Gmar Hativa Tova

  2. ” is it possible to forgive and yet remember? (absolutely!) Is it truly possible to wipe the slate clean of the wish for revenge, or at least restitution, while retaining the memory of the injury? (YES!) Does the answer to this question depend on the degree of injury? (YES, I believe so. Wishing you an easy fast) xoxo

  3. ShimonZ says:

    I’m a little late to this post, but I enjoyed it just the same. I think some of us are a bit better at forgiving than others, I myself don’t forgive easily. And even so, I am aware of the fact that sometimes negative thoughts towards another is a burden. All the same, the popularity of ‘forgive and forget’ irritates me, because I believe that each case has to be judged on its own merits. Sometimes, forgiveness brings relief and even joy. But there are things which I am unable to forgive.

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