Our Middat HaShavuah is “Be “womb-full” and generous, take deep breaths; be kind & honest.” It is part of a central prayer found in the Mahzor, the prayer book which we use on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. In Hebrew, the verse from the Mahzor is:

ה׳ ה׳ קֵל רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וְרַב-חֶסֶד וֶאֶמֶת

The verse in its entirety, which can be found in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 34: 6-7, reminds us of the importance of forgiveness. As the poet Alexander Pope said, “To err is human; to forgive is divine.” We all miss the mark. I personally miss the mark daily, most days, several times per day. All human beings miss the mark. There isn’t a person I know who doesn’t miss the mark. But what elevates us as human beings, what helps us to grow spiritually, is our ability to forgive. To forgive is to extend understanding towards those who have wronged or hurt us. It means to let go. In many cases, it means letting go of some or all of the frustration, disappointment, resentment, or other painful feelings associated with an offense. Forgiveness involves accepting the shortcomings, flaws, and imperfections of others and giving them a second (or sometimes a third) chance. 

Forgiveness can also help us in many ways. When we forgive, it can help us grow in our interpersonal relationships and it can help us thrive at work. Forgiveness can increase our personal morale, it can enable us to be innovative in our problem-solving, and it can provide us with a sense of flexibility when facing changes.

There is the old story about the man who buys a parrot and brings him home. The parrot starts insulting him and gets really nasty, so the man picks up the parrot and tosses him into the freezer to teach him a lesson. He hears the bird squawking for a few minutes, but all of a sudden the parrot is quiet. The man opens the freezer door, the parrot walks out, looks up at him, and says, “I apologize for offending you, and I humbly ask your forgiveness.” The man says, “Well, thank you. I forgive you.” The parrot then says, “If you don’t mind my asking, what did the chicken do?”

I love this story! In a humorous fashion, it reminds us of the power of forgiveness. It recognizes that we can miss the mark, and once there is recognition that we have missed the mark and we ask for forgiveness, we should have the strength and the compassion in our hearts to grant forgiveness. It also reminds us what happens when forgiveness is not sought and granted!

Shana Tova to you and your loved ones! May it be a year of learning and growing for all! And, let us begin our year in the spirit of forgiveness, so that we may grow in kindness and compassion, to make our lives and the lives of those around us happier and healthier, full of blessings and peace!

Moreh Alan