Schneider Aviel

MembersWho Can Forgive Whom?

We have watered down the biblical meaning of the word “slichot” – forgiveness

Slichot prayers at the Western Wall.
Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Elul is a month of forgiveness and grace, a time of repentance and preparation for the High Holidays. The focus is on divine mercy. These days it has become a kind of national sport to forgive one another. People ask forgiveness not only from God, but also from one another. Religious Jews fervently repent, which is why this period is known as “Slichot,” which translates as the plural for the word “forgiveness.” In the Christian world, all sins are already forgiven because Jesus died for them. But still Jews and Christians both fall into sin, and must ask forgiveness. How does the Bible actually present forgiveness, and who is able to truly forgive?

The Hebrew term for forgiveness appears for the first time when Moses has to climb Mount Sinai for the second time to receive a second set of tablets from God. Moses bends down to the earth and says: “O Lord, if I have found favor in Your eyes, I pray, let the Lord go with us, even if the people are strong-willed. Forgive our wrong-doing...

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