Elie Wiesel on forgiveness

Elie Wiesel on Forgiveness, just before his 80th birthday at a Jewish Values Network Fundraiser on 10/05/2008 at the Steinhardt Estate in NY.

Elie Wiesel is one of the 3 most important people in the world today, along with Nelson Mandela, and Dalai Lama, according to Rabbi Shumuley Boteach.

I always appreciate the message of Elie Wiesel; he is a person of exceptional depth and authenticity. Here are a few brief notes I jotted down while watching this video.

We ask God to forgive us. But God needs some of us to forgive him. I believe in questions more than answers. As a child he was never asked by his mother: “Did you have a good answer in school today?” Rather, she asked me, “Did you have a good question today in school?” In our tradition, what we try to show is a question, and questing. A philosopher once said: “Always seek truth, but beware of the one who found it.” Death is the question of everything—why did God create everything so it will die? Why create us humans because we shall die? Even though we die, we have to live, and therefore we need to do something with our lives.

Charity saves you from dying while you are alive. Charity is compassion for those who need you—they have no basic necessities, of even no hope. Our purpose is to give them these things; otherwise we’re not fully human.

Importance of asking for forgiveness from the person that one has hurt/sinned against. How long do we go back? Should we Jews have to forgive the Egyptians for the pyramids we built? Children of assassins and not assassins of children—problem of collective guilt, Wiesel does not believe in collective guilt. Each person must forgive the person who sinned against them directly; no one else can do that.

Jewish values, concepts, philosophies: Mine is the more Jewish is a Jew, the more universal one is. I cannot believe the Jewish person, or Jewish religion is superior to any other person or religion. I don’t like fanatics who tell me I don’t have the right to believe what I believe.

The Dalai Lama asked Wiesel to teach him the art of survival because the former said his people will need to learn it as it will likely be some time before they gain any kind of independence or autonomy for their homeland of Tibet and the exiles shall be safe to return. We can teach the non-Jew, the Muslim, Christian, and others if we live authentic Jewish lives.

Question time: I believe in memory. I don’t believe in hatred, anger yes. Memory, learn from it, say: “I don’t want my past to become someone else’s future.”

Question: Is Wiesel optimistic about the Jewish future? Yes, he said. Memory transcends future. Never before now have there been so many courses, books, etc., on the Holocaust. So I am optimistic about our people, that we shall survive.

Question of Jewish view of forgiveness, when do you forgive? Jewish law requires an individual to forgive their perpetrator, only if the latter asks for it. Wiesel told the story of a German government leader—I think it was Chancellor Kohl—who, after listening to Wiesel’s view on forgiveness, travelled to Israel and publicly in the Knesset asked for forgiveness from the Jewish people.

May God continue to grant health and blessings to his faithful servant, Elie Wiesel.


About dimlamp
I am, among other things, a sojourner, a sinner-saint, a baptized, life-long learner and follower of Jesus, and Lutheran pastor. Dim Lamp: dimlamp.wordpress.com gwh photos: gwhphotos.wordpress.com

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