[Milton-L] Resend of question re Judaism

Nancy Rosenfeld rfeld_zn at ein-hashofet.co.il
Wed Jul 26 09:43:55 EDT 2006

One's definition of forgiveness is important here. Are you referring to one's actions vis-a-vis the enemy, or an inner feeling towards the enemy, or both? 

In the Hebrew Bible forgiveness, if granted, is usually given by the Deity to sinners. This is, of course, a gross generalization, but does reflect the conventional wisdom, I think. 

Re one's behavior, there are a number of interesting points raised in the Hebrew Bible:

Exodus 23:4. "If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him." Admittedly, Ex. 23:5 suggests that it's important to provide such help for the sake of the beast, rather than for the enemy.
Proverbs 25:21. "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink." Again this is followed by 25:22 which sort of finesses the rationale for assisting one's enemy; but this doesn't change the necessity of offering help.
Proverbs 24:17, perhaps the most often quoted. "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth." Of course it could be said, depending on one's definition of forgiveness, that "not rejoicing" isn't quite the same as forgiving.

Going beyond the individual wise saying/ command, you might reread the sections of 1 Samuel which narrate David's forgiveness of Saul during the most conflicted period of their father-son-type relationship.

Not having Rabbi Hillel's strong leg muscles I didn't actually type this while standing on one leg; hope it's of some help, though.

Nancy Rosenfeld, PhD.
Dept. of English Language and Literature, University of Haifa, Israel.
English Studies Unit, Jezreel Valley College, Israel.         
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