As we approach the Day of Judgment, we frantically seek to improve our stance before G-d so that we may merit a favorable verdict. Of course full repentance is the only surefire guarantee we will be judged worthy but we are taught that there are techniques one can employ to up the ante and gain a reprieve.

One of the more popular suggestions is for one to be a מעביר על מדותיו, literally one who ‘passes by offenses’, in other words one who is willing to look the other way from those who have offended or harmed him and ‘letting it go’. One who overlooks slights directed from others toward him, the Talmud teaches, will merit in kind that G-d will look past his own indiscretions against G-d as well. This is based on a verse in Micha where the prophet ostensibly describes G-d as One who is נושא עון ועובר על פשע, forgiving of sins and passes by offenses, yet the Talmud sees an implied cause and effect indicated in this verse, and should be read as if saying ‘to whom does G-d forgive all his sins’, to the one who ‘passes by offenses’. (מיכה ז יח, ר"ה 


Is it really that simple? If we squelch our reactions to assault, verbal or otherwise, bearing the resulting disgrace and pain in a desperate effort to gain G-d’s generosity in examining us carefully, have we really changed, are we truly repentant? Can gimmicks truly repair the effects of our rebellious ways and have them wiped away in an act of amnesty? Is that the sum total of our relationship with G-d?

The Talmud however adds one ‘thorny’ caveat to this ‘magic eraser’. There are two qualifying words that appear following this expression of  G-d forgiving sin to those who pass offenses, which informs that this rule applies only, לשארית נחלתו, literally, to the remnant of His inheritance. The Talmud goes  on to explain that the ‘remnant’ referred to here are those who act out of humility and view themselves simply like שיריים, meager leftovers. It has been said in jest that the metaphor of leftovers refers to a Rebbe’s Tish where after the Rebbe removes his portion from the item served the Chassidim pounce upon the ‘poor shirayim’, shredding it mercilessly, with nary a reaction from the shirayim, similarly one must one accept ‘being ripped to pieces’ by those who attack him without responding.   

On Rosh Hashanah we will recite three series of blessings:

Malchuyos - affirming the Creator’s absolute dominion in our world and lives.

Zichronos -asserting our firm belief that we are accountable for all our actions and that all difficulties that come our way are ordained from on high.

Shofros - declaring our faith that G-d speaks to us and directs us through the medium of His Torah. 

These three concepts parallel the three basic tenets of faith: G-d as Creator, Divine Providence and the reality of reward and punishment, and the revelation of G-d and His will at Sinai.

A true believing Jew knows that no one can affect him unless G-d so wills it. When we react in explosive anger to those who taunt us we are exhibiting a momentary lapse of faith, for in truth no one can impact us if G-d did not so decree it. When we withhold our instinct to respond due to a confirmation of G-d’s total reign on every facet of life, we are acknowledging His role as the supreme ‘King’.

When a person accepts with humility, not only that it was divinely sent but that one is getting precisely what one deserves and there is a purposeful accountability for all that one endures, that is the ultimate acceptance, in the spirit of our Patriarch Yitzchok who marched toward the Akeidah with joy, of Divine Providence and the significance of reward and punishment.

The ability to lovingly overlook another’s flaws, to be מעביר על פשע, to pass on offenses, is an attribute of G-d Himself. Our emulating this extraordinary quality is the greatest testament to our utter belief that our role in life is to honor the Name of G-d with all of our actions, per the direction of the Torah that summons us to ‘follow in His ways’. One who achieves this quality embodies the very Torah itself and testifies to its veracity.

When one lives without a sense of entitlement, trusting in G-d as the most loving Father that can be, we can say one perceives oneself as shirayim, an unentitled, yet very privileged entity that is a vehicle to promote His will and bask in the joy of that remarkable relationship, knowing that the only validation anyone ever needs is being the beloved child of G-d.

The great disciple of Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, the Chozeh of Lublin and the Maggid of Koznitz, Rabbi Eliezer HaLevi Horowitz of Tarnograd in his Noam Megadim offers a marvelous insight.

When bringing Bikkurim, the first fruits, offering appreciation to G-d for one’s good fortune, one recites a moving declaration of gratitude for His eternal role in history. The story begins with ארמי אובד אבי, An Aramean (Lavan) tried to destroy my forefather (Yaakov).

Why do we begin here?

The Noam Megadim suggests two complementary interpretations.

The word ארמי has the root רם, high, in it. This he suggests alludes to a certain haughtiness that begins to fester with success. If one desires to quash this seed of entitlement one can אובד, lose it, by looking to אבי, my father, Yaakov. When pondering the resolve of Yaakov never to attribute any gain to his own power, always humbling himself before G-d, rolling with the punches of life time and again, one will be inspired to rise and reach for that goal expressing daily “when will my deeds reach to those of the forefathers”.

Alternately he suggests that אבי, my father here refers to our Father in Heaven, the loving father who bestows His endless love and compassion to all those who emulate His ways. One bringing his first fruits declares that ארמי, my haughtiness, if left untamed will lead me to a sense of empowerment and privilege that will cause me to אובד, lose, the special compassionate relationship I have with my ‘Father’, creating distance and strife.

Wasn’t it Lavan with his skewed sense of privilege and title that sought to quash that pillar of truth, honesty and integrity, Yaakov?

Lavan failed repeatedly, always justifying his corrupt ways with endless excuses, feigning love and concern when all he was truly after was self-gratification.

One who refuses to accept a belief in a benevolent Creator, who holds us accountable for all our actions and conveys His profound guidance in life through the words of Torah, is doomed to mindlessly concoct patently false self-justifications, never achieving happiness in life.

The key to an inspired and joyous existence lays clearly in one’s ability to ‘pass on offenses’, reiterating an awareness of G-d’s constant love and protection that in turn will affect this marvelous reality of G-d overlooking our worst sins.

It is no gimmick, it is rather the beginning of a restoration of the greatest relationship one can have with our Father in Heaven, which will most certainly lead us to a full and honest return from all our past follies.


צבי טייכמאן