An ancient Talmudic expression says that being a human being is a prerequisite to observing the commandments of Torah. Ponder the idea for a moment – it’s deeper than the floor of the ocean.

The High Holidays are awesome days of judgment. When we think of what transpired this past year and of all the friends and loved ones that have departed, it’s enough to awaken even a heart of stone. Who is so inane to think that more rounds of COVID, violent hate crimes and war, natural disasters and freak calamities like Meron and Surfside – all in the same year – are mere coincidence? The wake-up calls from Above are real, not figments of the imagination.

Fact – Divine judgment is serious. Archangels faint in fear when they hear the bang of the Heavenly gavel. So what are we supposed to do during the Ten Days of Penitence between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur? Die of fear?

No, the Almighty wants us to live. But He wants us to live a life of self-assessment and gradual, constant character refinement. Our loving Father in Heaven wants His children to first be human beings. How does one be a human being? We all know how to activate our mammalian bodies. But as human, we have more than the mere body of a mammal and the basic nefesh, or life force. We have ruach and neshama, the spirit and holy soul which come from a higher spiritual realm than the soul of an angel. Angels have no free choice. But as human beings, our task is to choose such morals that uplift our bodies to act in an ethical manner that is every bit as good as an angel, even better.

One might ask, what could possibly be higher than an angel’s behavior? The question is a good one but the answer is surprisingly simple. Angels don’t suffer from jealousy. They don’t know what competition and negative emotions are, for they each have a unique name and mission. The human soul does have negative emotions because of the downward direction that the animal part of the soul pulls it. The angels, insofar as they lack a physical body, are devoid of an animal soul and its resistive force against holiness.

“Human forgiveness is higher than any angel’s behavior.”

Angels don’t suffer insult and humiliation. Humans do. This apparent disadvantage is intrinsically a huge advantage. When we forgive someone who harmed us – even maliciously and willingly – we uplift ourselves way above the angels. Human forgiveness is higher than any angel’s behavior.

We now have the secret of atonement for all of our misdeeds, even if Heaven forbid, someone were to receive an ill-fated judgment on Rosh Hashanah, the day of judgment. This is a secret that the holy Rava reveals throughout the Gemara: anyone who overcomes anger and insult to forgive, the Heavenly Court must absolve him or her of all their transgressions.

Only a human can forgive. Neither an animal nor an angel can forgive. When we forgive someone who harmed us, we merit forgiveness for everything we might have done wrong. Don’t go to sleep at night without forgiving. You’ll suddenly taste a sweetness in life and you’ll attain a Divine signature for the very best year your ever had. Don’t forget – even if the aggressor doesn’t deserve your forgiveness, you deserve inner peace and a good life. Forgiveness will bring you both. Every blessing, LB

Qualifier: Forgiveness does not mean that a person must continue to subject himself to a willfully abusive person. Forgiveness requires emuna, believing that the Almighty enabled me to suffer in an easier way than my misdeeds might have incurred. The abuser is only a Divine punishing rod, who will ultimately suffer because of his choice to act as an agent of pain or negativity. We forgive so that we won’t harbor hate in our hearts or keep grudges. Nonetheless, we should try as much as we can to associate with upright people. 

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