These thoughts are something different than my family history and some will applaud it. I have been reading a book titled “A Prayer to Our Father” co-authored by Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson. Nehemia holds a degree in archeology and has worked in translating the Dead Sea scrolls while Keith Johnson is an American with a Masters of Divinity. Odd circumstances led the men to meet and to get to the root meanings of the “Our Father Prayer."
The whole book was enlightening, but I was struck more intensely when they started to share the meanings of the words for forgiveness. It expanded exponentially my thoughts on that subject.
In the prayer, we ask forgiveness for our sins and not just for our own. It becomes a collective word for the society in which we live. It is a collective responsibility. The Irish philosopher wrote, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”
It falls back onto our ideas of moral decency, of what is the correct thing to do, and what is truly honest and honorable to say. It becomes obligatory for us to at least speak out and rebuke those around us when we see wrong being done. In legal terms we “aid and abet” the criminal when we do nothing.
If our words don’t stop them then at least we have made an attempt to correct the situation, but remaining silent we must share their guilt.Asking for forgiveness doesn’t relieve us from the responsibility to act and prevent the spread of this transgression, but it allows us to recognize that there is no one who has not sinned. We become guilty by association with our society, with their wrongdoings, their transgressions, their sins.
The Hebrew language has several words that mean forgiveness. The first is “mehol”. It has the meaning of “to cancel a debt.” It is a thought that should make each person grateful to the person who is showing us forgiveness.
The second word for forgiveness is “nasa.” It means to carry a burden.” Not only is there forgiveness, but there is the comprehension that someone else will take that responsibility from us to themselves. Not only will they lift the burden, but that they will be accountable for that burden.
The third Hebrew word is “mahal” that translates “to erase.” Not only is there forgiveness, but the person who is forgiving the offense, but there is a complete clean slate. It is erased, forgotten, and as if it never happened. The one who has forgiven me, no longer has remembrance of it.
Our challenge comes when we, as human beings, have to forgive other people to the extent and the measure that God has forgiven us. No matter how deeply we have been hurt, no matter the size of the offense, no matter the type of the transgression, we must strive to let go of our anger, our resentment, and our indignation. Forgiveness there is so meaning much behind a single word.