I have really been torn up over the question proposed in "The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness" book that Rabbi Rami referenced last night. I've been thinking about it a lot over the last 15 or so hours. My answer last night was that the dying Nazi soldier would have to ask whatever Higher Power he believed in for forgiveness. That I didn't have the "authority" to forgive him all his cruelties, that I could forgive him only the transgressions against me, personally, but not others. I thought last night that was a humble answer. Now I'm wondering if it was a cop out.
Can I not forgive as fully as God? I'm struggling too with "do I have the right to forgive what he did to other people"--would they (the victims) want me to forgive him? But am I lessening the loving compassion of the victims thinking they would begrudge him forgiveness if his heart has truly turned? Then, I decided to investigate it more and decided that in order for me to answer, I needed to know what exactly his crimes were. And when I found out how bad they were, I actually felt, physically, my heart harden against him. Then I thought--my God, what does that say about me that I am judging his crimes deciding whether he is worthy of my forgiveness--I went from humility to unbelievable arrogance. The fact that I decided that I needed to investigate what exactly his crimes were put me immediately in the seat of judge. That realization brought me to: "Do I not have the pity for one pathetic, failed, dying man?!" Am I that miserly with my forgiveness? Oh my God. Such incredibly hard stuff. Now, I feel I "want" to forgive him, but would that forgiveness be now for him or I? So hard to clarify the intent and motivation. I'm realizing I have much work to do. Am I making it so incredibly complicated when forgiveness is maybe very, very simple--recognizing the human-ness of us and loving despite and because of it.
I struck up a discussion on facebook about it and I'm bringing the question to a Spirituality group on Sunday as well. I'd love to hear other folks reflections on this scenario. Also Rabbi, I'd like to hear your thoughts on whether you could easily forgive the soldier fully, without reservation and conflict. And whether is "conflicted forgiveness," still adequate forgiveness?