Our Middat HaShavuah this week is, “Be “womb-full” and generous, take deep breaths; be kind & honest,” and it is not taken from the weekly Torah portion, but rather from 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

This verse from the Mahzor reminds me of the importance of forgiveness. When I think of forgiveness, even before the Tefillot which we say during the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance, or better yet, the Ten Days of Turning or Returning from Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur, I am reminded of two pop songs, one from the seventies and the other from the eighties (I know, I am dating myself!) The first song from the 70’s was by Elton John. Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” rings true for any of us who have knowingly wronged another, either by our words or by our actions, and we had to ask the person or persons we offended for forgiveness. Despite the fact that we may know that we have wronged another, we often don’t have the wherewithal or even the ability to say three simple words, “I am sorry.” Sorry truly seems to be the hardest word, even when at times it is the most important word.  

The other song is by Don Henley of Eagles fame. Henley sings in his song, “The Heart of the Matter,”

“I’ve been tryin’ to get down,

To the heart of the matter.

But my will gets weak,

And my thoughts seem to scatter.

But I think it’s about forgiveness.


Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore.”

Both songs capture the difficulty and importance of the Middah of forgiveness. For Elton John, sorry is the hardest word.  For Don Henley, forgiveness is the heart of the matter, that important yet difficult step each of us must take in order to reach reconciliation and ultimately redemption.

Forgiveness means to extend understanding towards those who have wronged or hurt us. It requires us to let go. In many cases this is the letting go of some or all of the frustration, disappointment, resentment, or other painful feelings associated with an offense. Forgiveness, and the related quality of mercy, involves accepting the shortcomings, flaws, and imperfections of others and gives them a second (or third) chance. As the expression goes, it is letting bygones be bygones, rather than being vengeful. It is a process of humanizing those who have led us to feel dehumanized.

True forgiveness can contribute to strong interpersonal relationships, thriving teamwork, personal job satisfaction, improved morale, innovative problem-solving, a sense of flexibility when facing changes, and productivity.  True forgiveness is one of the 24 character strengths that Positive Psychology suggests leads to happiness and well-being.

As we approach Yom Kippur and the book closes on the year that was, and as we approach a new year, let us ask for forgiveness from our loved ones and our neighbors.  In addition, let us allow ourselves to forgive those who may have wronged us, and who are truly involved in Teshuvah – turning and trying to change. Let us get beyond sorry being the hardest word, so that we can get down to the heart of the matter, which is forgiveness.

G’mar Hatimah Tovah!  May you and your loved ones be inscribed in the book of life for a year of good health, happiness, blessings and peace.

Moreh Alan