Monday, August 16, 2010

Forgiveness with a Hebrew Slant

mechilá, selichá, kappará, tahorá

I came across these four Hebrew words relating to forgiveness in a quote by Rabbi David Blumenthal as I was zipping around in cyber space "researching" this series of posts...

“The most basic kind of forgiveness is ‘forgoing the other’s indebtedness’ (mechilá). If the offender has done teshuva [a process requiring the offender to acknowledge their offense, express remorse, make restitution, and take steps to prevent repeating the behavior], and is sincere in his or her repentance, the offended person should offer mechila; that is, the offended person should forgo the debt of the offender, relinquish his or her claim against the offender. This is not a reconciliation of heart or an embracing of the offender; it is simply reaching the conclusion that the offender no longer owes me anything for whatever it was that he or she did …

“The second kind of forgiveness is …selichá. It is an act of the heart. It is reaching a deeper understanding of the sinner. It is achieving an empathy for the troubledness of the other. Selicha, too, is not a reconciliation or an embracing of the offender; it issimply reaching the conclusion that the offender, too, is human, frail, and deserving of sympathy. It is closer to an act of mercy …

“The third kind of forgiveness is ‘atonement’ (kappará) or ‘purification’ (tahorá). This is a total wiping away of all sinfulness. It is an existential cleansing. Kappara is the ultimate form of forgiveness, but it is only granted by God.”

Next post...what about when you are the perp....when you are not the forgiver but the one seeking forgiveness?

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