Resolve to Forgive
OpinionsRosh Hashanah 5779

Resolve to Forgive

Rabbi Neil Sandler is senior rabbi at Ahavath Achim Synagogue.

Rabbi Neil Sandler

Rabbi Neil Sandler is the senior rabbi at Ahavath Achim Synagogue.

Rabbi Neil Sandler
Rabbi Neil Sandler

So what is your New Year’s resolution for 5779? Is it to cut down on all of those fattening foods and exercise more so that you can lose a few pounds? Is it to treat yourself nicer and not be so hard on yourself? Is it to pause a bit more often in order to better and more fully appreciate life?

Do you have a New Year’s resolution? Chances are you do not. New Year’s resolutions are thoughts we associate with January 1 each year; not with the first of Tishrei. Even if that is the case, I offer one resolution that each of us would be wise to make and live by this year … and every other year of our lives:

Forgive. That’s it. Forgive. Forgive yourself and forgive others.

We know we ought to forgive others, but we seldom do so. Our lingering anger too often gets the best of us. We cannot hear even the faint echoes of an apology, and we are too proud to offer forgiveness even when we recognize that apology.

The Kotzker Rebbe, Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, offers words that have become familiar in Hebrew, especially as they are sung: “The entire world is a narrow bridge. The essence (of life) is not to fear at all.” What did the Kotzker Rebbe have in mind when he penned those words? In part, I think he meant to convey that life is short. It can be quite perilous at times. Don’t be afraid of the things you truly have no reason to fear, including the parts of life that can enervate you if you allow them to do so.

One of those unnecessary fears is the fear many of us have of saying, “I forgive you.” We fear we will appear weak to others if we forgive them. We fear we will wound our self-image if we admit we were wrong and seek to forgive ourselves.
Dr. Dean Ornish, the well-known guru of health and nutrition, regards forgiveness as the “tofu of the soul,” a healthful alternative to the “red meat of anger and vengeance.”

What a wonderful image! Offering forgiveness is not only potentially liberating as one allows himself or herself to let anger dissipate. It is a staple of a healthy and grounded soul.

Researchers have already shared their medical findings concerning the physical benefits of seeking forgiveness and offering it. Dr. Ornish helps us to reflect on what offering forgiveness may mean to our spiritual selves. Can anyone doubt the truth of this discovery?

As the New Year approaches, commit yourself to live in accordance with this resolution, “I will forgive. I will forgive myself and I will forgive others.”

On behalf of the members of Ahavath Achim Synagogue, I wish you and your loved ones a blessed year in 5779. May you enjoy good health and well-being.

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