Image: Two people embracing. (Antonio Guillem /Shutterstock)
After the Israelites reject the Land in the episode of the Spies, God is angry, talking about wiping them all out and starting over with Moses. Moses replies with soothing words, reminding God of the relationship at stake. God immediately calms and replies:
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, סָלַחְתִּי כִּדְבָרֶךָ
And the Eternal said, “I have forgiven, as you asked.” – Numbers 14:20
Moses recognized that the anger God expressed came from hurt. The Israelites were afraid, and rejected the gift of the Land. Moses spoke to God’s hurt, and God forgave.
There are many points to get from this famous story, but this one simple verse is a pithy example of what Jews do during Elul: We ask for forgiveness, and we grant it to others.
It does not change the fact that one person hurt the other. All it does is create an opportunity to reset the relationship.
I go through the month asking, “Who is angry with me, and why? Do I own any tiny (or not so tiny) part of that anger – did I do anything?” If I can apologize for that tiny part, and ask forgiveness, perhaps it will open up a dialogue in which both sides can be healed. Certainly without this action, nothing will improve.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But it is always worth a try.