The lesson is clear: If we cannot let go of the bitter experiences of our past, we become bitter. If we cannot march onward, we become trapped in one place as pillars of salt. And if we cannot “flap our wings” to shake off the hurts of yesterday, we will never be able to soar to the blessings of tomorrow. Thus, the first step toward healing our society after this divisive season of the 2020 elections, should begin with the eradication of resentment from our beings.Rabbi Allouche
It’s no secret that we have just experienced one of the most divisive elections in recent history.
Personal attacks have been launched, friendships have been broken, and walls of antagonism and hostility have been built between people.
Why we can’t disagree without being disagreeable, is beyond me. Why individuals — including many who pride themselves in being “tolerant” and “virtuous” — have sworn their allegiance, directly or indirectly, to politicians and their parties, over swearing allegiance to their friends and family, is shocking, to say the least.
But what has happened to the commandment of “loving your fellow as yourself”? When did the men and women in positions of power become more important than the men and women in our own families and communities? Do politics really matter more than human relationships? Can people not restrain themselves before sending out haughty and “in-your-face” messages of discord in emails, and on social media platforms? And have we fallen so low that the love that should reside in our hearts, has been replaced with animosity and resentment?
As a young child, I remember being glued to a TV set in Johannesburg, South Africa, where my family resided, on that momentous day of February 11, 1990. Nelson Mandela had just been released to freedom after 27 years of torturous imprisonment.
Toward the end of the day, a journalist approached Nelson Mandela with the following question: “Don’t you feel any resentment toward your country and its government for oppressing you and your people for so many years?”
With grace and a radiant smile, Mandela responded: “Resentment? Not at all! Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
Similarly, in this week’s portion, we read about the evil community of Sodom that is about to be destroyed by G-d. Only Lot and his family were to be saved, but under one condition: Upon their departure from Sodom, they could not look back. The only direction they could face was forward. The temptation to look back turned out to be too difficult for Lot’s wife, and she fell into it, she turned into a pillar of salt.
The lesson is clear: If we cannot let go of the bitter experiences of our past, we become bitter. If we cannot march onward, we become trapped in one place as pillars of salt. And if we cannot “flap our wings” to shake off the hurts of yesterday, we will never be able to soar to the blessings of tomorrow.
Thus, the first step toward healing our society after this divisive season of the 2020 elections, should begin with the eradication of resentment from our beings.
And as we march together into a new tomorrow, let us also take upon ourselves to eradicate not just the resentment in our hearts, but also the negative thoughts and speech to others and about others, from our minds, mouths, and typing-fingers. In the stirring words of the Talmud: “The world endures only in the merit of those who restrain themselves during a potential quarrel (Tractate, Chullin 89a).”
In the 16th century, Rabbi Isaac Luria composed a beautiful prayer to help us let go of any resentment, grudge, and heartache we may have accumulated throughout the day so that we can awake the next morning with a fresh heart, a clean soul, and a set of undefiled eyes focused on moving forward and upward.
The words of this prayer — which are recited every night, before going to sleep — are riveting:
“Master of the universe, I hereby forgive everyone who has angered or antagonized me or who has sinned against me — whether against my body, my property, my honor or against anything of mine; whether he did so accidentally, willfully, carelessly, or purposely; whether through speech, deed, thought or notion; whether in this transmigration or another transmigration — I forgive every Jew and every person. May no one be punished because of me.
“May it be Your will, HaShem, my God and the God of my forefathers that I may sin no more, and whatever sins I have done before You, may You blot out in Your abundant mercies, but not through suffering or bad illnesses, please. May the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before You, HaShem, my Rock, and my Redeemer.”
If this prayer is not yet a part of your daily ritual, I encourage you to recite it along with the bedtime Shema prayer. We need it today, perhaps, more than ever before.
Meditate it day and night. Embrace its message of forgiveness and renewal. And set yourself, and our society, free.