On forgiveness

30 03 2010

I recently saw a documentary on Hasidism in America. In that documentary, a Hasidic anecdote was told that went something like this:

A rabbi once asked a lowly blacksmith how he asked for God’s forgiveness on Yom Kippur. The blacksmith told the rabbi the prayer that he prayed to God:

“I am a simple man, and I have a few sins, but You are very powerful, and You do all sorts of horrible things, like taking children away from their mothers. So I’ll forgive You if You forgive me, and with that we will call it even.”

The rabbi responded:

“Why did you let God off so easily? With that prayer, you could have redeemed all of Israel.”



7 responses

5 04 2010

Teresa of Avila was once heard by one of her followers to say, as a form of prayer, when she was prevented by flooding from crossing a stream, “No wonder You have so few friends; You treat them so badly!”

3 04 2010
Arturo Vasquez

Any comment on my part would be superfluous.

2 04 2010

Yes that is apparent. The issue for me is rather the comment made by the Rabbi. What is he saying. Is he affirming the effectiveness of the smith’s argumentation. Is the smith simply like Abraham arguing for sodom. Or is he being sarcastic. Is he pointing out the futility of this form of thought or this means of adressing God. I agree it is valid to argue with God. How can we not? What man does not feel in some way slighted by the way things are? If not completely outraged at the way things are. That is at least an honest reply to God and to life. But is that the point.

2 04 2010

Read the psalms. They alternate between servile praise and childish outrage. That’s why they are prayed everyday. There’s more than one way to talk to God and I think a man both praises and curses God, even in the course of a saintly life.

2 04 2010


2 04 2010

I dont get it! I have spent a fair amount of time reading hasidic literature I have in front of me Buber’s Tales of the Hasidim as I write this. I just am not sure what is being said. Maybe I am not smart enough or not subtle enough to get it. can anyone elaborate on this passage. Is it a piece of irony. Or is it on the level. Is the Rabbi saying yes call God to account? Is he attempting to stand on an equal footing. Or is he expressing a mystery. The mystery of why we fail and why God often seems to fail us? Or is he being sincere and the statement means exactly what it says? Or is he being a wise guy. Or is he just provoking thought and reflection.

2 04 2010
Ian Wolcott


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