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A discussion about forgiveness.

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Library » Jewish Identity » Love thy Neighbor | Subscribe | What is RSS?


WreckedRoommate: I had a roommate for several years. He was on drugs, took me to the cleaners financially, and left me in ruins. I don't care to elaborate on the details, but suffice it to say that because of him I've had to file bankruptcy, foreclose on my condo, and rent a room in somebody's apartment. I am about to file a restraining order against him so I never hear from him again.

Since this is the season of the High Holidays and we need to repent and forgive, I want to know how do I forgive this person who has ruined me and left me with so much anguish?

Rabbi Silberberg: Everything that happens to a person comes directly from G-d. No one can do anything to you, good or bad, if G-d had not already planned it out. As we say during the High Holidays, "On Rosh Hashanah [the decree] is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed." Nothing (other than a persons prayers, good deeds and charity) can change the divine plan.

Going about life thinking that you are at the mercy of any crazy person who might hurt you, or any drunk driver who just might cut your life short, is scary. How wonderful it is to know that no one can harm you. Rather, everything is in the hands of the Creator
[This is a very reassuring thought. Going about life thinking that you are at the mercy of any crazy person who might hurt you, or any drunk driver who just might cut your life short, is scary. How wonderful it is to know that no one can harm you. Rather, everything is in the hands of the Creator, the A-lmighty G-d Who is kind and all His ways are pleasant and kind, although sometimes we may not comprehend them.]

Therefore, when someone does something evil to you, there is no reason to get angry at that person. If that perpetrator would not have done the deed, G-d would have found another emissary to ensure that His will be fulfilled.

The person who did the evil act will be punished for his crime, by both earthly and heavenly authorities. But the punishment is (not for the destruction that resulted from the deed, because that was predestined, but rather the punishment is) because he chose to do evil. His intention wasn't to execute G-d's will, but rather he was following his animalistic instinct.

G-d didn't need this person in order for His will to be performed, for G-d has an infinite amount of ways to ensure that His will be done. Therefore our sages tell us that "becoming angry is equal to idol-worship.” For if one believed that G-d controls everything, and G-d is good, then there is never a reason for anger.1

It is also possible that the person who hurt you so much is mentally unstable. In that case, mercy is more appropriate than rage.

Obviously, this doesn't preclude you from taking all necessary measures to ensure that this individual doesn't harm you again.


  • 1. For a more in depth study of this idea, see Tanya, Igerret Hakodesh ch. 25 (available at
TAGS: anger


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Posted by: Lloyd on Nov 01, 2006


I liked what you said however I have a hard time digesting the term forgiveness unless we define what it is. Look what Hitler did to us and our families. Should we forgive him? Heck NO if you define forgiveness by the standards of Christianity. The Meshuggenahs of this world would have you believe that we just have to forgive and move on. .

Here is my perspective on forgiveness. Forgiveness from a biblical perspective means not to seek your own revenge. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation. Forgiveness does not mean that you are not seeking justice because G-d is the G-d of love and justice. Forgiveness does not mean you cannot be righteously angry with someone. It how you deal with the anger the right way you will forgive the person.

I have forgiven the people that have done harm to me and family but I wish G-d and the proper authorizes make them pay for what they did.

Shalom Lloyd


Posted by: Anonymous on Jun 18, 2007

I was glad to read the last paragraf on this subject. I believe alot of people hesitate to forgive because they have ideas that they may have to associate again with those that hurt them, in order to "truely" forgive. I hesitated until I read and it made sense to me that I did not have to "put myself in harm's way" again with these same people, but that I could truely forgive and choose not to associate again, therefore, realizing these same people have not repented on their own, making it easy for them to again hurt others.


Mitzvot » Love thy Neighbor
Mitzvot » Repentance
Holidays » Yom Kippur » Repentance
Philosophy » Character

Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.