It’s that time of year again, when Jews all over the world start to think about the Jewish Forgiveness Trifecta: (1) What they are sorry for, (2) To whom they should ask for forgiveness and (3) What constitutes appropriate amends.
According to rabbinical tradition, if you ask for forgiveness and make reparations, then the person to whom you have asked forgiveness and made reparations MUST forgive you.
We talked about that today at a workshop at my synagogue for the parents and children involved in the religious school. It was a rather unsatisfying discussion in that it raised far more questions than provided answers (thus, reminding me of law school; damn Socratic method of teaching).
1. What IS forgiveness? Is it an emotion or an action? And if it is an emotion, then is it even possible for someone to be obligated to forgive? How does one compell a feeling?
2. Aren’t some bad acts unforgivable? If a nazi asks a Jew for forgiveness for the nazi’s actions in murdering Jews during the Holocaust, must the Jew forgive? If a child molester asks for forgiveness from the parents of a victim, must they forgive? If the answer is no, is it because there is simply no possible reparation?
3. How does forgiveness figure into the politics and polemics of the Middle East? Would forgiveness on an individual level help to bring about forgiveness on a cultural level? And if so, is forgiveness in this set of circumstances even possible? Is it possible for it NOT to be possible?
I thought I’d bring up these nuggets before mentioning that I played the role of the Lady Who Lunches today, meeting my friend S in New Canaan at a restaurant frequented by Richard Gere. Unfortunately, he was not there today. But lunch was delicious, and S and I talked about politics, gardening, yoga and whether we want to go back to work, now or ever. She and I were roommates in law school, and we both had some success in our careers before leaving it behind. She is more inclined to go back to work than I am. I quite enjoy my leisurely life.
Nevertheless, I had an odd dream early this morning, an interesting and disturbing prologue to our lunch. In the dream, S had a great job, and I didn’t work. And she was happy and fulfilled, and I was anxious and uncomfortable and desperate to find work that would make me happy. I found it strange that my subconscious might be providing me with enough ambivalence about my life choices that my conscious need not even be bothered. Except when for whatever reason, my conscious mind remembers the dream and then feels grumpy all day about it.
Still, and this is for my fans out in the far Northwest: I luv being a lady who lunches. If you watch Madmen, then you will know what I mean when I say, I am totally a Betty. I’ve even taken to wearing a-line shirt dresses…with crinoline. Seriously. That’s what I wore last night to the country club my friend J and her family invited us to as their guests. Ah, the good life.
Practice did kind of suck after a two course lunch, two sodas and the large coffee I had at the gas station in Pound Ridge on the way home. But I was proud of myself for practicing, when I knew it would suck.
And that made it kind of good.