The Kabbalah of Forgiveness Level Twelve: Remember Where They Came From

level-12

The Twelfth Level: Remember Where They Came From

“Family Tree (Remember Where They Came From),” illustration of Level 12 by Rebecca Odessa, Courtesy The Wisdom Daily

The Twelfth Level: Remember Where They Came From

Translator’s Introduction

             The final element of the triad is Level Twelve.  In Level Ten we discussed how to forgive ordinary people and in Level Eleven we examined how to forgive especially good people.  Level Twelve deals with forgiving people who seem to be beneath our consideration, having failed habitually to live up to moral challenges. How can such people, who have a long history of wrongdoing, merit our forgiveness? Even after considering the previous eleven strategies, it may be difficult to find a path to forgiveness for these people.

The Twelfth Level suggests a shift of focus, from the offender to his or her family background. Rabbi Cordovero, writing for a Jewish audience, places this level in the context of Jewish peoplehood. Even when a Jew behaves inappropriately, and little excuse for the behavior may be found, nevertheless that Jew is still a child of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and deserves forgiveness purely out of respect for their ancestral merit. Rabbi Cordovero’s argument may be extended to the family of the entire human race.

השתים עשרה – אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתָּ לַאֲבֹתֵינוּ

יֵשׁ בְּנֵי אָדָם שֶׁאֵינָם הֲגוּנִים וְהב”ה מְרַחֵם עַל כֻּלָּם וּפֵרְשׁוּ בַּגְּמָרָא וחַנֹּתִי אֵת אֲשֶׁר אָחֹן שאָמַר הב”ה אוֹצָר זֶה לְאוֹתָם שֶׁאֵינָם הֲגוּנִים יֵשׁ אוֹצַר תחנוּנִים שֶׁהב”ה חוֹנֵן וְנוֹתֵן לָהֶם מַתְּנַת חִנָּם לְפִי שֶׁאָמַר הב”ה הֲרֵי יֵשׁ לָהֶם זְכוּת אָבוֹת, אֲנִי נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי לָאָבוֹת אִם כֵּן עִם הֱיוֹת שֶׁאֵינָם הֲגוּנִים יִזְכּוּ בִּשְׁבִיל שֶׁהֵם מִזֶּרַע הָאָבוֹת שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּעְתִּי לָהֶם לְפִיכָךְ אַנְהִילֵם וְאַנְהִיגֵם עַד שֶׁיְּתֻקְּנוּ. וְכָךְ יִהְיֶה הָאָדָם אַף אִם יִפְגַּע בָּרְשָׁעִים אַל יִתְאַכְזֵר כְּנֶגְדָּם אוֹ יְחָרְפֵם וְכַיּוֹצֵא, אֶלָּא יְרַחֵם עֲלֵיהֶם, וְיֹאמַר סוֹף סוֹף הֵם בְּנֵי אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקֹב, אִם הֵם אֵינָם כְּשֵׁרִים, אֲבוֹתֵיהֶם כְּשֵׁרִים וַהֲגוּנִים, וְהַמְּבַזֶּה הַבָּנִים מְבַזֶּה הָאָבוֹת, אֵין רְצוֹנִי שֶׁיִּתְבַּזּוּ אֲבוֹתֵיהֶם עַל יָדִי, וּמְכַסֶּה עֶלְבּוֹנָם וּמְתַקְּנָם כְּפִי כֹחוֹ.

 Translation

 The Twelfth Level

 That You Swore to our Ancestors

             There are those people who do not behave correctly, yet God shows mercy to all.  The Talmud explains the verse, I will show kindness to who I will show kindness: God says, “I have a storehouse for those who are unworthy.”  There is a storehouse of kindness, from which God dispenses freely to those who are unworthy, because God says, “behold, they have the merit of their ancestors.  I swore to their ancestors! Even though they are unworthy, they receive merit because they are the descendants of their ancestors, ‘to who I swore,’ and I will lead and guide them until they address their imperfections.” So too should a human being act. If one encounters wicked people, one should not be cruel to them, insulting them and the like, rather one should show them mercy and say, “in the end, they are the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Even if they are not proper, their ancestors were proper and good. One who derides the children derides the parents, and I do not wish to be the cause of derision of the ancestors.” One should protect their dignity and help them as much as possible.

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