Why No Person in the Bible Ever Forgives Another

Sept. 13 2021

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.

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Read more at Times of Israel

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

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia