Selichot

9/24/05 

Preliminary Meditations

i.        Days are scrolls; write on them only what you want remembered.

          -        Bachya ibn Pakuda, Duties of the Heart, 11th Century

ii.       When we are dead, and people weep for us and grieve, let it be because we touched their lives with beauty and simplicity.  Let it not be said that life was good to us, but rather that we were good to life.

          -        Rabbi Jacob P. Rudin (Reform, Great Neck)

iii.      Now is the time for turning.  The leaves are beginning to turn from green to red and orange.  The birds are beginning to turn and are heading once more toward the South.  The animals are beginning to turn to storing their food for the winter. 

For leaves, birds and animals turning comes instinctively.  But for us, turning does not come so easily.  It takes an act of will for us to make a turn.  It means breaking with old habits.  It means admitting that we have been wrong; and this is never easy.  It means losing face; it means starting all over again; and this is always painful.  It means saying: I am sorry.  It means recognizing that we have the ability to change.

These things are terribly hard to do.  But unless we turn, we will be trapped forever in yesterday's ways.  Lord, help us to turn - from callousness to sensitivity, from hostility to love, from pettiness to purpose, from envy to contentment, from carelessness to discipline, from fear to faith.  Turn us around, O Lord, and bring us back toward You.  Revive our lives, as at the beginning.  And turn us toward each other, Lord, for in isolation there is no life.

          -        Rabbi Jack Riemer (Conservative, Boca Raton) Prayer before Study:

Ba-ruch  At-tah  A-do-nai  E-lo-hey-nu  Me-lech  Ha-o-lam  A-sher

Ki-d'-sha-nu  B'-mitz-vo-tav  V'-tzi-va-nu  La-a-sok  B'-div-rei  To-rah.

 

 

Forgiving and Forgetting the Sins of Others

 

1.     The most powerful story about repentance I know concerns Ernst Werner Techow, one of three German right-wing terrorists who assassinated Walter Rathenau, Germany's Jewish foreign minister in 1922.  The killers' motivations were both political extremism and anti-Semitism.   When the police caught the assassins, two committed suicide; Techow alone survived.  Three days later, Mathilde Rathenau, the victim's mother, wrote to Techow's mother:

In grief unspeakable, I give you my hand - you of all women the most pitiable.  Say to your son that, in the name and spirit of him he has murdered, I forgive, even as God may forgive, if before an earthly judge your son makes a full and frank confession of his guilt...and before a heavenly judge repents.  Had he known my son, the noblest man earth bore, he would have rather turned the weapon on himself.  May these words give peace to your soul.

Techow was released from prison for good behavior after five years.  In 1940, when France surrendered to Nazi Germany, he smuggled himself into Marseilles where he helped over 700 Jews escape to Spain with Moroccan permits.  While some had money, most were penniless, and Techow arranged their escapes for nothing.

Shortly before his activities in Marseilles, Techow met a nephew of Rathenau, and confided that his repentance and transformation had been triggered by Mathilde Rathenau's letter.  He said: Just as Frau Rathenau conquered herself when she wrote that letter of pardon, I have tried to master myself.  I only wished I would get an opportunity to right the wrong I have done.

          -        Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Wisdom

                   Ordained at Yeshiva University, Rabbi for the Synagogue                          of the Performing Arts in Los Angeles

 

2.      We tend to confuse forgiving with forgetting, but they are not the same thing.  There are times when we will forgive those who hurt us even though we cannot forget.  Forgiveness is not saying: I don't feel the pain anymore.  Forgiveness is saying to the one who hurt us: I do not feel the need to hold on to your involvement in my pain anymore.  Forgiveness is not forgetting; forgiveness is choosing not to actively remember.

It is also important to note that forgiveness does not mean condoning an action.  You do not have to tolerate what someone has done to you in order to forgive them.  In other words, you can forgive someone and still not approve of their behavior.  You can forgive them and still refuse to accept what they have done to you. 

For at its essence forgiving is not about the people who have hurt us.  Forgiveness is about healing ourselves after we have been hurt.

          -        Rabbi Edwin C. Goldberg (Reform, Coral Gables) 

3.      What sins are not forgivable? Contrasting views:

 

A.      If you want to stay in prison all your life, become a jailer.  Being        vindictive, being angry at somebody...the people who say "I'll         never forgive the Germans" are still in a concentration camp.                   -        R. Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi, the inspiration of the                      Jewish Renewal movement and Professor of Religious                        Studies at Naropa University, Boulder CO.

B.      Forgive them not, Father, for they knew what they did.    

          -        Abe Rosenthal, former Executive Editor of the New York                             Times, referring to the killers at Auschwitz                                                       (Contrast to Luke 23:34)

C.      We may be able to forgive you for killing our sons, but we will never forgive you for making us kill your sons. 

          -        Golda Meir (to Gamal Nasser)

 

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