A Forbidden Peace

Details: Written by Naomi Rothstein

Writing for Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir comments:

A careful study of Jewish sources reveals that forgiveness fulfills two distinct roles—one religious, and one personal.

The religious role of forgiveness is that it enables the wrongdoer to achieve atonement for his act. It is a firm doctrine of Jewish belief that God doesn't grant full forgiveness for our sins against our fellow man until we obtain forgiveness directly from the wronged individual.

The personal role of forgiveness is that apology and forgiveness enable the two sides to put the incident behind them, and to restore harmonious relations.…This personal aspect of forgiveness is perhaps even more important than the religious one.1
There is much human logic in these words, however another Jewish perspective, the messianic Jewish perspective, holds that forgiveness from God is actually the precursor to reconciliation between people. That is, having a right relationship with God—one in which people know they have been forgiven by their Creator for their wrongdoing—will cause people to be forgiving towards one another.

How can we attain God's forgiveness? It's a timely question, considering we have just commemorated Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and asked God for forgiveness for all manner of sins. Yet, the Day of Atonement was originally instituted because humans cannot attain God's forgiveness, not without a sacrifice.

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.

Leviticus 17:11

God never changed his requirements for atonement. When Jesus died, it was as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of all who trust in him. Like the sacrifices in days of old, through Jesus' blood, humanity can be reconciled to God, and then to each other.