I have found something especially meaningful in every religion I've encountered. Forgiveness may be my favorite concept from the Jewish religion. Yom Kippur, this year taking place on October 9, 2008, is this religion's most holy day. It's the Day of Atonement and forgiveness. During this time, the participant is required to regret their sin, resolve never to do it again and ask the person they have sinned against for forgiveness. On Yom Kippur, you must confess the sin and also ask Hashem for forgiveness. (In conversation, many Jewish people will call God "Hashem," which is Hebrew for "the Name.")
However, the ancient Rabbis understood that human nature is sometimes stubborn and does not always easily forgive. It is therefore customary to ask people before Yom Kippur to forgive you for anything you may have done to hurt them. If you make an honest attempt to ask the person for forgiveness, and he refuses to forgive you, you must try at least two more times. You have to wait a few days in-between requests, and they must be in three different places, in hopes that the person will cool off and change his mind. If he still refuses to forgive you, you have at least done your part.
I share with you a truly moving story of forgiveness.
On the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, in 1995, Eva Kor, then 61 and a real estate broker in Terre Haute, Ind., stood outside a gas chamber at the infamous camp and offered her forgiveness out loud to the late Dr. Josef Mengele for the inhumane medical experiments he had performed on her and her twin sister.
She forgave every other Nazi, as well.
"I, Eva Mozes Kor, a twin who survived as a child of Josef Mengele's experiments at Auschwitz 50 years ago, hereby give amnesty to all Nazis who participated directly or indirectly in the murder of my family and millions of others," she said that day, reading from a prepared statement. Even in our culture of apology, where "I forgive you" flows freely and often speedily from the mouths of perpetrators and politicians, parents and children, spouses and complete strangers, Kor's apology stands out.
"I call forgiveness the modern miracle medicine," she said.