Winnipeg Jewish Review  
Site Search:
Home  |  Archives  |  Contact Us
Features Local Israel Next Generation Arts/Op-Eds Editorial/Letters Links Obituary/In Memoriam

Max Roytenberg

Max Roytenberg: Forgive Them Their Trespasses

by Max Roytenberg, posted here Aug 29, 2019

There is a popular proposition that bearing a grudge, failing to forgive those who have done you an injury, does oneself serious damage. The theory is that the negative emotions that you have stored up inside is hurting you. The only way, they say, to stop hurting yourself, they say, is to forgive those who have done you an injury. In the same way that confession is good for the soul, they say, part of the process of forgiving yourself for your own transgressions is confessing your crime and coming to terms with it. I am trying to do that. But for Jews, I being one, confession is never be enough. The Jewish ethic demands restitution. The Jewish ethic demands atonement.

The world is so full of things and people whose impact on our lives is hard to forgive. I find the whole forgiveness proposition difficult to digest. I may be considered ungenerous, but some things that are done are just too terrible to forgive. I bear the sense of injury for some things I witness close to my heart. I don’t know about you, but often I find that there is no room in me for forgiveness. Injuries done to a child with malice aforethought is one of those things. Crimes driven by greed of all kinds that blinds one to the pain of others is analogous.  There has to be so little empathy or imagination in the heart of the transgressor that the plight of others is of no importance before their own desires. And I haven’t even mentioned murder.

Jewish sages offer some of us an out on these questions. I am told that I don’t have to forgive those who are not interested in seeking forgiveness from me. I know lots of people I can put in that category. That lets me out on a lot of stuff. Also, I am told that I don’t have to, I am not able to, forgive those whose transgressions are against others rather than myself. That’s a relief! There are so many actions that I can never forgive for what they have done to others that I care for and about. Now, I am left with a lot of hates I can continue to nurse. A saint I ain’t! What does your agenda look like?

I have been merrily going on about my business without thinking much about these matters. Life complicated enough. How do you feel about it? Most of us are just trying to get through the day, the job, dealing with our boss, our partner, the kids, the commute, the weather. Heck, for many people, just balancing the budget is enough to drive us wacky. And now we’re supposed to be nice, considerate, even polite, all the time! Even to people who are really unpleasant? Give me a break!

It turns out that if we don’t think about this as we go along, we’re compounding our own mess. And that’s why there is so much interest in an annual stock-taking, picking over all the bits and pieces of our lives, especially when New Year’s times roll around. That time is behind me. I have gotten through the winter. Spring blossoms are in full bloom, and the glorious summer lies before us. I can agonize about this anytime I choose. Why not now?

We are also told we should forgive our transgressors just because we can, not just because it’s good for our health. I don’t think I can manage that.You can tell that I’m not trying to set myself up as a model citizen. I am not the one likely to forgive transgressors against me for no reason whatsoever. Maybe some of you out there have the largeness of spirit to envision that role for yourself. Not me.

I am not knocking it. It’s just that as I struggle with these ideas, I am possessed of rage at all the injustices I have witnessed, at those I witness on my television screen every day. Even if they are not directed at me, personally, if I forgive them, should it mean that I have to stop fighting against their expression, against their evil? What about those who have done injury and gotten away with it?  There are so many of those. I insist on being the judge and jury in my mind.

Surely atonement for my rage should not mean that I forgive and forget. Even if they are not directed at me, they are directed at my world. I am personally affected as I toss and turn in my bed at night, in frustration, distressed at my helplessness, my irrelevance, in this equation. How can I make atonement for letting these things happen in my world? Not just me, but we?

I believe that I can find the wherewithal to dredge up forgiveness for slights from most of the people that I personally interact with. They probably know not of my injuries. If I can believe there is no malice aforethought I can probably manage it. All the others, not so much!

For the rest, how can they ask for forgiveness if they do not know that they have given injury? I can make that act of atonement to clean up some of the underbrush. I have probably been guilty of the same crimes against others many times in my own life. As have you.

As for me and my Maker, we both know that I have been an unreliable servant. I am wilful; my resolutions have had little staying power. I am continually throwing myself on the mercy of the court. My longevity attests to my continued success in this regard. I have been treated as the prodigal son each and every time I have returned to ask for favours. Different from me, the quality of His mercy is not strained.

I wish the same on all of you, my precious audience.
<<Previous Article       Next Article >>
Subscribe to the Winnipeg Jewish Review
  • Royal Bank
  • Fillmore Riley
  • Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
  • JNF Manitoba / Saskatchewan
  • JCFS
  • JCFS Winnipeg
  • Orthodox Union
  • Accurate Lawn & Garden
  • Sobey's
  • Coughlin Insurance
  • Munroe Pharmacy
  • Tel Aviv University Canada
  • Safeway Tuxedo
  • Daniel Friedman and Rob Dalgleish
  • Lipkin Family
  • Booke + Partners
  • Red River Coop
  • Gislason Targownik
  • Janice Morley-Lecomte
  • James Teitsma
  • Obby Khan
  • Jon Reyes
  • James Bezan
  • Markus Chambers
  • Ross Eadie
  • Ted Falk
  • Artista Homes
  • Fetching Style
  • Chisick Family
  • Ronald B. Zimmerman
  • Bob and Shirley Freedman
  • Shinewald Family
  • MLT Aikins
  • MLT Aikins
  • Myers LLP
  • Levene Tadman Golub
  • Equitable Solutions
  • Charach Family
  • Munroe Dental Centre
  • MCW Consultants Ltd.
  • Preventative Health First
  • Lanny Silver
  • Josef Ryan
  • Taverna Rodos
  • Holiday Inn Polo Park
  • Bruce Shefrin Interior Design
  • PFK Lawyers
  • Commercial Pool
  • Simmonds and Associates
  • CVA Systems
  • CdnVISA Immigration Consultants
  • Laufman Reprographics
  • Dr. Brent Schachter and Sora Ludwig
  • Clear Care Periodontal
  • Shindico
  • Doheny Securities Limited
  • Lazar Family
  • Superlite
  • Chochy's
  • Nick's Inn
  • Bridges for Peace
  • Global Philanthropic
  • Abe and Toni Berenhaut
  • Peerless Garments
  • Cavalier Candies
  • Roseman Corp
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • kristinas-greek
  • Broadway Law Group
  • West Kildonan Auto Service
  • The Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.
  • Sarel Canada
  • Santa Lucia Pizza
  • Roofco Winnipeg Roofing
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Nachum Bedein
Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.