The Kabbalah of Forgiveness Level Thirteen: The Moment of Innocence

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The Thirteenth Level: The Moment of Innocence

“The Moment of Innocence,” illustration of Level 13 by Rebecca Odessa, Courtesy The Wisdom Daily

The Thirteenth Level: The Moment of Innocence

Translator’s Introduction

The Thirteenth and final Level of mercy carries an absolute guarantee: one who masters this level can forgive anyone. The Thirteenth Level renders all the earlier levels unnecessary, but there’s a big catch: the Thirteenth Level is spiritually exhausting, and can only be sustained for brief periods of time. It requires phenomenal concentration and a massive investment of personal energy, and as such it should only be invoked when all other levels prove insufficient.

 The theory is simple, the technique complex. The basic idea of the Thirteenth Level is that no matter how despicable a person has become, there was certainly a time when that person was completely innocent.  No matter how damaged the relationship, there was a time when it was new and healthy. Contemplating that moment of innocence is the essence of the Thirteenth Level, which Rabbi Cordovero calls “the level that contains all previous levels.”

הַשלוש עשרה – מִימֵי קֶדֶם

 הֲרֵי מִדָּה שֶׁיֵּשׁ לְהב”ה עִם יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּשֶׁתַּמָּה זְכוּת וְכַיּוֹצֵא מַה יַעֲשֶׂה וַהֲרֵי הֵם מִצַּד עַצְמָם אֵינָם הֲגוּנִים, כְּת’ זָכַרְתִּי לָךְ חֶסֶד נְעוּרַיִךְ אַהֲבַת כְּלוּלֹתָיִךְ.

מַמָּשׁ זוֹכֵר הב”ה ימים קַדְמוֹנִים, אַהֲבָה שֶׁהָיָה מִקֹּדֶם וּמְרַחֵם עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל וּבָזֶה יַזְכִּיר לָהֶם כָּל הַמִּצְוֹת שֶׁעָשׂוּ מִיּוֹם שֶׁנּוֹלְדוּ וְכָל הטובות וכל המִדּוֹת טוֹבוֹת שֶׁהב”ה מַנְהִיג בָּהֶם עוֹלָמוֹ וּמִכֻּלָּם עוֹשֶׂה סְגֻלָּה לְרַחֵם בִּשְׁבִילָם, וַהֲרֵי זוֹ הַמִּדָּה כּוֹלֶלֶת כָּל הַמִּדּוֹת כֻּלָּם כִּדְפֵרְשׁוּ בָּאִדְרָא. כָּךְ הָאָדָם יְתַקֵּן הַנְהָגָתוֹ עִם בְּנֵי אָדָם שֶׁאֲפִלּוּ שֶׁלֹּא יִמְצָא טַעֲנָה מֵאֵלּוּ הַנִּזְכָּרוֹת יֹאמַר כְּבָר הָיוּ שָׁעָה קֹדֶם שֶׁלֹּא חָטְאוּ וַהֲרֵי אֹתָהּ השעה אוֹ בְּיָמִים קַדְמוֹנִים הָיוּ כְּשֵׁרִים וְיִזְכֹּר לָהֶם הַטּוֹבָה שֶׁעָשׂוּ בְּקַטְנוּתָם וְיִזְכֹּר לָהֶם אַהֲבַת גְּמוּלֵי מֵחָלָב עַתִּיקֵי מִשָּׁדָיִם וּבָזֶה לֹא יִמָּצֵא אָדָם שֶׁאֵינוֹ רָאוּי לְהֵטִיבוֹ וּלְהִתְפַּלֵּל עַל שְׁלוֹמוֹ וּלְרַחֵם עָלָיו.


 Translation

 The Thirteenth Level

 From Days of Old

             Behold, this is a trait of God for the Jewish people: when they have exhausted the merit of their ancestors and the like, what does God do? Behold, based on merit alone, they are unworthy.  It is written: I remembered you, the kindness of your youth, the love when you were a bride.

God literally remembers the early days, the love that once was, and shows mercy to the Jewish people.  In this manner God recalls for their benefit all the commandments they performed from the day they were born, and all the positive attributes through which God causes the universe to function for them. Out of all this, God creates a special method to show them mercy, a level that includes all of the previous levels, as is explained in the Idra. So too should a person perfect one’s dealings with other people. Even if one cannot find any reason from all of the preceding, one should say, “there was once a time when this person did not sin. At that moment, or in those early days, this person was good.” One should think of the good things the other person did as a child, and recall the love that one has for a child who is yet nursing. With this method, one will not be able to find a person who is undeserving of benefit, unworthy of prayer and mercy.

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