The Bible Says What? ‘God can bear grudges, we can’t’
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The Bible Says What? ‘God can bear grudges, we can’t’

Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers takes a controverdial topic from the Torah and applies a progressive Jewish response

 Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people.

Have we been as forgiving as we should have over the past weeks? Do you really carry no grudges, as Leviticus 19 asks?

It seems a tall order, given human nature, but is especially galling when Exodus 20:5 and Numbers 14:18 both tell us God punishes children for the sins of their parents to the fourth generation. This sounds like He holds the odd grudge or two!

Living in the Jewish community is a blessing. We celebrate and mourn together, we feed each other. But let’s be honest, we all know someone – perhaps even ourselves – who is still fretting about being ignored at Kiddush, or not being invited to the Cohen’s simchah. Grudges come pretty naturally.

These are the micro-annoyances, the things that don’t really matter in the big scheme of things, but that can so easily become eternal grudges that niggle and poison.

But not all grudges are small. Are we also expected to let go of our hurt against bullies and abusers?

Grudgingly resenting others who have slighted us doesn’t really harm the person we hold a grudge against, however much one might wish it did, but it can harm the holder of such resentment.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to let these things go – this verse jumps out at me because the struggle is very real. The hardest work of the High Holy Days isn’t the work of asking for forgiveness, it’s the work of letting go of the many grudges we hold onto, hurting ourselves rather than anyone else. Equally, we should know it’s OK if there are bigger hurts we aren’t yet ready to forgive.

  •  Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers is community educator at  Movement for Reform Judaism

 

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