Rav Shai's "Torah on the Grow"

September 12, 2019 / 12 Elul 5779

Brit Milah
of the Word)

Apologies without Borders 

When we err, an all too predictable defense mechanism is to cut ourselves slack and rationalize our misbehavior. Jean Paul Sartre suggested that our capacity for rationalization is infinite. Given that the best defense is offense, our capacity for self-righteous indignation might be infinite, too. No wonder it's so tough to admit we're wrong and apologize!
Jesus and Rabbi Akiva made famous the Torah's verse about loving your neighbor as yourself. The verse, however, is as opaque as it is popular. What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? (Similarly, what does it mean to love the stranger or to love God? For that matter, how do I love myself?) One way to understand this command is to cut your neighbor as much slack as you cut for yourself. Cut slack unto others as you would have others cut slack unto you.

 The problem arises on the other side of the rope. You're the one who needs slack from the person you've offended, but you're only feeling their tug of resistance. Your instinct is to meet their tug with equal and opposite force. That's when the rope frays.
An apology's function is to appease the one who has been offended. The Mishnah makes no concessions if your victim happens to be extra difficult to appease. Your self-righteous indignation won't apologize; it can't. Only your humble and flawed self can apologize without invoking mitigating circumstances. Any sort of apology might appease; only an unalloyed apology can heal.

Rav Shai Cherry

דרוש וקבל שכר

D'rosh v'kabel sahar

Recontextualize and receive reward

The brit milah will be featured in the Shabbat dvar Torah on September 14.


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