6 Tishrei 5781 / Thursday, September 24, 2020 | Torah Reading: Ha'azinu
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Forgiveness in Five    

Forgiveness in Five

When Hashem arranges for someone to insult or humiliate us, especially in the month of Elul or during the High Holidays, it's like winning the Irish lottery. Here's why…


Who doesn't have some type of troubles or tribulations in this world? My esteemed teacher, Rabbi Shalom Arush, frequently quotes our sages who say that there are no tribulations without prior transgression.[1] Whether we like to hear it or not, we're our own worst enemies and we bring troubles on ourselves…


Hold on, there's great news. Don't be apathetic, but don't get a nervous twitch or a panic attack because of Judgment Day. The Creator's mercy knows no bounds, but He does expect us to make at least a minimal effort to cleanse ourselves of our misdeeds.


The good news is that Rebbe Nachman of Breslev is always there to encourage us. He says, "If you believe you can ruin something, then believe you can rectify it."[2]


How can a person rectify a lifetime, a year or even a day of wrongdoing? All it takes is five minutes, with guaranteed terrific results.


Say the following prayer every night before you go to bed. Say it slowly, ponder each word and be as sincere as you can. It won't take more than five minutes:


Master of the Universe, I hereby forgive anyone who angered or antagonized me, or who wronged me in any way, whether against my body, against my possessions, against my dignity or against anything else that is mine; whether this was done under duress or willfully, accidentally or on purpose, whether by speech or by deed, whether premeditated or whimsically, whether in this incarnation or in a different incarnation, and may no one be punished because of me. Help me not to transgress any more, and in Your abundant mercy, please erase my transgressions.


I come to You, Father in Heaven, in the spirit of our sages who promised that a person is judged Above in the same manner that he or she judges others. Therefore, as I wholeheartedly forgive those who sinned against me in any way[3], please forgive me for my sins against You. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable before You, amen!


Did you catch the signed zillion-dollar check that our holy Talmudic sages gave you, which I incorporated in the above prayer? A person is judged Above in the same manner that he or she judges others down here below in this world. What you give is what you get and what you sow is what you reap. Plant wheat and harvest wheat; plant forgiveness and you'll harvest forgiveness.


Why is the above prayer so cogent?


If you forgive others for the sins they did against you, The Almighty will forgive you for the sins you did against Him. But there's one problem: religious law stipulates that although the Creator forgives the misdeeds against Him, He doesn't forgive the misdeeds committed against one's fellow human. One must ask forgiveness from the injured party him/herself.[4]


Your jaw drops: "How am I supposed to find every person I harmed in any way? Maybe they won't forgive me?"


Again, the good news is back. Our sages teach that the Creator runs the world in a measure-for-measure fashion.[5] If you do your utmost to forgive others, even if you say the above prayer in less than perfect sincerity but you say it and that's where you want to go, the Creator will put in their hearts a willingness to forgive you.


You're now home free with the minimal effort of five minutes. Imagine the anguish it can save you, a thousand-fold and more…


There are those who may still find the above prayer too difficult to say. Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai says fine, say these six words before bedtime and nothing bad can happen to you the entire next day:[6] Mechilna lai lechol inun d'metza'aru li – "I hereby forgive anyone who caused me anguish." In English, which the Almighty understands fluently, it's only eight words that take three seconds to say! What a discount!


Don't think that the "Forgiveness in Five" ploy is my own. I learned it from the Gemara:[7] Rava says "One who forgives an affront is forgiven all of one's sins." This is yet another carte-blanche, signed check from one of our greatest sages.


Remember, the next time someone insults or humiliates you, don't lose it! Chill, smile and think that The Creator is sending you a gift from Above – forgive the aggressor, as difficult or as painful as it might be, and your slate of spiritual debts will be wiped clean on the spot. Not only that, but you'll be rewarded with blessings you never dreamed of. It's the real deal – guaranteed!


[1] Tractate Shabbat 55a

[2] Likutei Moharan II:112

[3] Tractate Sota 8b, Sanhedrin 100a

[4] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 606:1

[5] Tractate Sota, Op. Cit.

[6] Zohar, Part 1:201b

[7] Tractate Rosh Hashanah 17a


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