Forgiveness: Part II
Rabb Moshe Ben-Chaim
Dr. David Zuniga: How do you personally define forgiveness? How did you arrive at this definition? How does this definition serve you? What helps you arrive at a place of forgiveness and what are obstacles to you forgiving?
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: All fine questions. Logically, we must first define what requires forgiveness, i.e, what is the definition of “being wronged,” or what is “evil.”
Evil is defined both objectively and subjectively; both possessing degrees. Examples of objective evil are murder, rape, and robbery, and these are of a greater degree of evil than baseless suspicion, and miserliness. Subjective evil might be determined due to one’s age, like a child who steals, or circumstance, like a grieving widower who attacks his wife’s murderer.
Certain evils are arrived at through reason, like murder and robbery, but how do we determine absolutely and in all cases, what is a crime? When do subjective elements warrant forgiveness or less severe punishments? Does the sinner’s regret play a role in my forgiveness? Is unpremeditated murder equal to premeditated murder? Is abortion a crime? As you can see, left to man, debate on these issues will never end. An authoritative answer is therefore required. And God did not leave us without direction. As He alone created mankind, He alone determines evil, and its response.
As I have mentioned in a number of recent essays, it is essential that we first prove what God has transmitted. Only then can we be certain what is evil, what is not, the varying degrees of evil and their proper response from man and the courts.
I have demonstrated that the Bible remains the only proven divine transmission. In it, God answers your question. He teaches us of Cities of Refuge for those who kill accidentally, and that until such a careless person enters, a relative is not held responsible if he retaliates. Premeditation vs. carelessness is addressed too. Is an idolater to be killed? What about children of an idolatrous city? Why did God flood the entire Earth in Noah’s generation? If my beast gores once or three times, why is my responsibility different?
Aside from the Bible, there are 300 years worth of Talmudic analyses that share theories and conclusive laws, each based on God’s Bible and His Oral Law, the Mishna. It is no small study, but it offers us the answers you seek.
Knowing and appreciating God’s judgements, we can mature from subjective feelings that are of such variety and inconclusiveness, to living by an absolute system that imbues us with a full understanding of evil, human nature, responsibility, and forgiveness. Understanding that God alone created mankind, we defer to His reasoned judgements, but we also will arrive at an appreciation and an agreement with His laws, for our minds too are His creation and He ensured that our reason will accept His laws as truths.
Knowing God’s determinations of levels of human responsibility, His punitive measures, and my ability to separate myself from petty matters and focus on my life instead of retaliation or hate, all contribute to how God expects man to conduct himself in matters of forgiveness.
God’s Bible and Talmud are replete with lessons of human perfection, like Joseph forgiving his brothers, and God’s laws, all complete in their scope. Their study is the only method to accurately answer your questions.