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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Jan. 15, 2006 / 25 Teves, 5767

Forgiving and forgetting to ourselves

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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Judaism preaches "constructive clemency"


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: I made some poor judgments in my business. My own life is now a wreck, and I have also harmed others who are left with unpaid debts. How can I move on?


A: In a previous column we discussed Judaism's approach to forgiving others. There we explained that Judaism doesn't require or even encourage a person to forgive someone who harmed them freely and unconditionally. It's completely legitimate to demand fair recompense or an appropriate apology. This approach benefits both parties. The injured party obtains recompense and acknowledgement, and the wrongdoer has the ability to put his transgression behind him knowing that he has made amends.


But the demands made of the wrongdoer should be reasonable, and their object should be to move forward to a new, repaired relationship. We find in the Shulchan Aruch (authoritative Code of Jewish law): "One asked to forgive should not be cruel and withhold forgiveness, unless he intends for the benefit of the one requesting forgiveness". (1) The commentators explain that delaying forgiveness can sometimes benefit the wrongdoer by making him internalize the gravity of his acts and truly regret them.


The ideal is an attitude of "constructive clemency". We need a forgiving attitude, but not at the expense of fixing what's been broken. The same approach guides our attitudes towards our own sins. Certainly a person needs to do what is in his ability to rectify what he has wronged, and to commit himself to avoid making the same transgression in the future. As Maimonides explains, Jewish law recognizes three stages in this process: regret for the past, acknowledgement of the sin through confession before G-d, and commitment for the future. (2)


Should a person then "forgive and forget" himself? That depends. On the one hand, there is an advantage to always keeping our past misdeeds in mind. A person who made a mistake in the past needs particular vigilance from falling into his past ways. The book of Psalms (51:4-5) states: "Thoroughly cleanse me of my transgression, and purify me from my sin. For I well know my crime, and my sin is before me always". Based on this, the Talmud teaches that even if one has already made a frank confession of one's sins before God, it is praiseworthy to repeat the confession once a year on subsequent Days of Repentance. (3) This corresponds to the person who intentionally delays forgiveness for the benefit of the wrongdoer.


On the other hand, excessive attention to past misdeeds can be an obstacle to putting them behind us. A competing opinion in the Talmud claims that someone who repeats confession on a past misdeed is likened to "As a dog who returns to his own vomit, so is a fool who persists in his folly" (Proverbs 26:11).


Some Hasidic works draw particular attention to this problem. While the Talmud tells us that each person is warned to always be like a wicked person in his own eyes (4), Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, one of the earliest Hasidic masters, writes: "This needs to be understood properly, for the Mishna (5) tells us, 'Don't be wicked before yourself', and furthermore if a person sees himself as wicked he will become saddened and unable to serve G-d with joy." (6) Rav Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov, a slightly later leader, wrote that when dwells on past misdeeds it can have the effect of making the expression of regret routine and thus insincere. (7) The Hasidic movement, with its emphasis on joy in serving G-d, was particularly emphatic that a person should not dwell too much on past misdeeds.


The conclusion is as follows: A person who finds that recalling past missteps is necessary for him to keep from backsliding should avoid "forgive and forget"; for him, the watchword is "forgive and remember". This is why Alcoholics Anonymous members open their discussions by acknowledging, "I'm an alcoholic".


But a person who finds that keeping the past in mind prevents him from enjoying life and serving G-d with joy, should indeed "fix, forgive, forget".


Law and custom provide various ways for debtors who are in over their heads to make livable arrangements with creditors and to move forward in life. Do your best to live up to the arrangements you negotiate in the wake of your business failure, to put the whole situation behind you, and to make a new start with joy and hope, and without dwelling on past mistakes.


SOURCES: (1) Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 606:1 in Rema (2) Maimonides' Code, Laws of Repentance 1:1 (3) Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 86b (4) Babylonian Talmud, Nidda 30b (5) Mishnah, Avos 2:18 (6) Book of Tanyia chapter 1 (7) Benei Yissachar, Tishrei 7:9

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

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