Why No Person in the Bible Ever Forgives Another

In the days leading up to Yom Kippur, tradition urges Jews to ask one another for forgiveness for wrongs and slights committed in the past, and likewise to forgive those who approach them with contrition. Yet, notes Joshua Berman, nowhere does the Tanakh state explicitly that one person has forgiven another. The Hebrew word meaning to forgive is in fact only used when God is doing the forgiving. Berman explains:

To understand how the Bible thinks about rupture and repair in human relations, we must begin by noting the stories where something akin to forgiveness is, in fact, expressed, but only nonverbally: through a kiss.

The best example of this is in the book of Samuel. David’s son, Absalom, murders his half-brother, Amnon, and the king declares him persona non grata. Desperate for an audience with the king, Absalom employs various advisors to appeal to the king, who finally acquiesces. Absalom enters the throne room and prostrates himself, at which point Scripture says, “and the king kissed Absalom” (2Samuel 14:33). Nowhere else does David kiss any of his other sons. This is the kiss of clemency and reconciliation. But has David forgiven Absalom for the murder of Amnon?

The world of the Bible places a premium on reconciliation. . . . Introspection begets remorse. Remorse begets apology. Apology begets forgiveness. When the full cycle is closed, there is deep cleansing. There is redemption.

But so often, for so many, those early stages of introspection, remorse, and verbalization are too difficult to navigate. The biblical narrative gives a more clear-eyed view of imperfect people in an imperfect world. And here the takeaway is that the bonds that connect us are of paramount importance. Sometimes we need to forget about forgiveness and do things the biblical way—to kiss and make up.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Book of Samuel, Forgiveness, Hebrew Bible, King David, Yom Kippur War


An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security