Elul Week Three: Forgiving Ourselves, Forgiving Others

Elul Week Three: Forgiving Ourselves, Forgiving Others

Ani l’dodi,v’dodi li. I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me. - Song of Songs

V’dodi: And my beloved – Forgiveness

At the heart of Elul’s call to compassion is the practice of forgiveness: finding the capacity to forgive ourselves, developing the capacity to forgive others.

Our tradition teaches that forgiveness is the great cleanser. When we forgive, we literally change the past. We don’t change what happened, but we do change how we respond to what has been. By forgiving we are no longer controlled by the pain and the hurt of past experiences. We are free to respond in a new way.

Forgiveness does not try to paper over what has happened through superficial means. It is not an effort to condone a wrongdoing or suppress or ignore pain. Forgiveness acknowledges what is unjust, harmful and difficult. And it offers to lift the burden of anger and resentment so we can move beyond hurt into something new.

It is important to remember that forgiveness does not necessarily happen quickly. Coming to forgiveness may include a process of grief, outrage, sadness, loss and pain.

Thich Nhat Hahn, the Buddhist master, teaches that when practicing forgiveness we should not begin with the most difficult person we can think of to forgive. He teaches that we should practice forgiving with someone we love, someone with whom we want to be in relationship. After we have practiced for a good while, we then begin to expand our circle. Go slowly, he urges. Be gentle and, with great compassion, watch for the openings of the heart.

Practice: 

This third week of Elul, we focus our practice on forgiveness.

We continue the metta meditation we began last week, each morning saying the prayer for people in our lives with whom there is a need for forgiveness.

Each evening before going to sleep we say the following prayer so as to end the day with the intention to forgive.

Ribbono shel olam, Guide of the Universe, I hereby forgive anyone who angered or antagonized me or did wrong toward me, whether against my body, my property, my honor or against anything of mine, whether he or she did so accidentally, willfully, carelessly or purposefully, whether through speech, deed, thought or notion.

May no person come to harm because of me. May I align myself with the Highest Will so that I do not cause harm or pain to myself or others. Whatever wrongdoings I have committed, may they be cleansed with abundant compassion, good health and safety. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be aligned with the Source of All, my refuge, inspiration and strength.         

(Traditional prayer before the bedtime Sh'ma, adapted from the Art Scroll Siddur)

Each week during the month of Elul, Rabbi Yael Levy is posting a teaching and practice based on a phrase from the Song of Songs, which form an acronym for the Hebrew letters of ELUL. It is also customary to say Psalm 27 each day of the month.

For today's Daily Teaching, see the A Way In Blog.

You may also review the Week One Elul practice on Gratitude and the Week Two Elul practice on Relationship.

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