Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The Importance of Understanding Your Jewish History

A friend once brought to question how to interpret the following section of the Lord's Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. My friend admitted that he does not always forgive in a manner worthy of proclaiming this verse, a realization to which I myself have come time and again. We pondered the consequences of our lack of forgiveness. If I haven't forgive others, does that mean God won't forgive me? Have not all my sins been already forgiven on Christ's Cross?

The other night, in reading a book by a woman, Lauren Winner, who first committed her life to Orthodox Judaism and then later converted to Christianity, I was once again faced with the necessity of understanding Jewish history, culture and religion in interpreting any part of the Bible. Winner states, "On Yom Kippur, Jews confess their sins, both privately and corporately. Before the holiday begins, they go around asking the forgiveness of everyone they have wronged; the Talmud [oral Rabbinic works believed to have been given to Moses on Sinai] teaches that God forgives the sins we've done against Him freely, but He will not forgive the sins we've done against our neighbors until they have forgiven us first. One Jewish prayer book puts it this way: God's forgiveness for us is our forgiveness of other people running through us."

So, to pray to forgive us as we forgive others, is in reference to seeking forgiveness. As others seek forgiveness of us, we are to seek it from God. It is a confession that we need forgiveness, that we must seek it from God and from others. It is an acknowledgement that every Lord's Prayer may open our reconciliation, every day may be our day of atonement, our Yom Kippur.