Forgiveness - Selichah


Rivka Olenick



"...nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people." Leviticus 19:18.


"If your brother has wronged you in your property, forget it at once even if he has not asked you to do so; what he took was not yours, and he did not take anything from you. Where injury has been done to your person or honour, be easily appeased as soon as your brother asks for forgiveness and desires to be reconciled. He who soon forgives is soon forgiven. If you are really good, if humility is one of your qualities, you will forget hurts and insults without pardon being asked of you; like the well known chasid, you will never lie down to sleep without being reconciled with the whole world, all of which God covers with the wings of His peace." Samson Raphael Hirsch from Horeb.


In order that we can to "return to God" Who covers the whole world with the wings of His peace there must first be a genuine desire for selichah, forgiveness from those we have sinned against and to those who desire our forgiveness. Asking to be forgiven by God must be rooted in love and fear of God and love for our fellow Jew. Doesn't that make sense? Shouldn't we try much harder to realize that we are really one nation, designated to be His holy nation, chosen by Him? In asking for God's forgiveness shouldn't we be aware that we have lost our way, and that only through the process of tshuvah can we find our way back to the Master of the World? Tshuvah itself is not so difficult, being humble and admitting we are wrong is difficult. God commanded us to do tshuvah because we are capable of it just as we are capable of facing the truth about our flaws and asking for forgiveness.


But before we ask God to forgive us for the sins we commit against each other shouldn't we first reflect on the purpose of our lives? If we don't understand the purpose of our life why should it matter that God forgive each of us? Why should we want our fellow Jew to forgive us? Are we really sincere when we ask for each other's forgiveness? Are we asking for His forgiveness in order to truly return to Him, or is it just "lip service." Are we trying to get through another day, month or year, to try to make it "under the wire" with the hope that our fate will be sealed with life or that God hears our daily plea of repentance? Do we really try to reflect at the end of our day and ask ourselves: How did I act, what did I say or do, or didn't say or do that might have harmed myself and/or another person? Can I really go to sleep in peace with the whole world?


"Who can discern one's own errors? Clear me from hidden faults" said King David in his Psalms 19:13. We can help each other to discern our errors and faults by pointing out to each other with compassion when we are doing wrong and what we are doing wrong. We are each obligated to rebuke with kindness and concern for each other's well being. In doing, so we enhance the potential for greater perfection that we each have by helping each other move closer to it. It is easier to be objective concerning other people's flaws, if we do this with genuine thoughtfulness and not harsh judgment. At the same time, we should look more closely at our own flaws and weaknesses and honestly ask: "How am I living my own life?" instead of judging other people's lives negatively. It is much easier to point our finger at others, but what do we gain from that? Nothing. When we constantly do that, there is no growth, we continue to live in denial and never use the potential that was given to us as a gift from God. It is a gift, even though most people are convinced they themselves create their own potential.


Truthfully, most people waste their lives by pursuing things that will never utilize one's real potential! Think about it. A Jewish person cannot afford not to do tshuvah. No one can afford to miss or ignore the opportunity to repent at any time, only a fool would choose not to. How many of our brothers and sisters have we lost to the vile, filth of Arab terrorists who call themselves servants of God. Who have absolutely no fear of God, and no love for His divine Torah, but who want to destroy every trace of His chosen people. They refer to Jews many times in their corrupt book, Koran as infidels and non-believers. We, the Jewish people were designated as the "true servants of God." It is our job to make every effort possible, with our heart, our soul and with all our might as we say daily in the Shema. Our purpose is to demonstrate continuously to the world what our purpose is, which is to be an eved Hashem, a servant of God. We are supposed to be "the light" unto the nations but pathetically we still are "the target" of the nations. Every single day we have the opportunity to talk to God through real prayer, prayer that we merit only because of the Avos, the Fathers. Prayer that God hears, that He listens to. The so-called prayer of the non-Jew is not listened to when he prays to a non-god. It is the tefilos of the Jew who prays to the true God - Hashem - that is heard.


In the Selichot prayers we say: "Thy people and thy heritage hunger for thy goodness, thirst for thy kindness, and long for thy salvation; let them know and understand that mercy and forgiveness belong to the Lord our God." We are asking God through our tshuvah to forgive us individually and as a community to restore us as the Klal, His "holy" nation. We beg Him to answer us as He answered Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, our Forefathers at the Red Sea, Moses at Horeb, Aaron, Phineas, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, Hezekiah, Hannaniah, Mishael and Azariah, Daniel, Mordecai and Esther, Ezra, the righteous, the pious, the perfect and the upright. He answers the poor, the broken-hearted, the widow, the orphan, the lowly in spirit, yes He does answer!


Do not pass up any opportunity to save your own life at any time by engaging in the process of tshuvah, and to be written in the Book of Life - what could be more important? Start now with doing tshuvah. Read Selichos and continue during the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. A person can do tshuvah all year and strengthen the opportunity so that at the designated time when God is closer to us, one's fate will be sealed. Every day in the Shemona Esrei we say the blessing for repentance, "hashivenu Avinu l'Torahtecha", bring us back, our Father to Your Torah. We ask God to bring us back, but we can make much greater effort to return, too! Give Tzedaka that brings justice to those people who benefit from what you give. So that our fellow Jews do not feel abandoned, visit the sick and sit and listen to them with your heart. Look into their eyes and say that you care and will include them in your tefilos and will help them in whatever way you can. Honestly look into yourself with the serious intent to work on your flaws by admitting to them, and then move forward and begin to remove those flaws. Attach yourself to learning and be more involved in thought, because this is what we were created for. The Torah has all the tools and instruction needed in order to live in line with the will of The Creator. Be optimistic in your goals and be strong in your commitment in the process of tshuvah, and just "do it."


"Hillel said: Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace, pursuing peace, loving the created beings and bringing them closer to Torah." Pirkei Avos. "Lord in heaven, we entreat thee, as a slave entreats his master. We are oppressed, and dwell in darkness; our souls are afflicted with much distress. We have not the strength to propitiate thee, O Lord; do it for the sake of the covenant which thou didst make with our forefathers." Selichos.