Dear Rabbi

Last month I had an e-mail dialogue with a Rabbi that had published an article on religious tolerance and unity. With hopes of advancing communication and understanding I have included the conversation below.

Dear Rabbi,

I come at forgiveness from a New Testament perspective and was wondering what your take is on the verses in Hebrews 9 that say ...

When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, "This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep." In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

... since sacrifices are no longer performed how does a modern day Jew appropriate forgiveness?

Dear Bob,

Indeed, forgiveness in the Hebrew Bible was contingent on the kind of passage you quote which alludes to the sacrifice being the vehicle tp forgiveness. That continued in the ancient tabernacle in the wilderness and then afterwards in the Temple in Jerusalem. Once the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70, however, the means of asking God for forgiveness for the Jew transferred to a. the prayer service- both in the daily morning prayers where there is a passage asking God for forgiveness and then on our Day of Atonement through prayer, fasting - and b. not repeating the offense. c. In addition, a Jew is required to "seal" forgiveness" with some act of genuine kindness with another human being.

Dear Rabbi,

Is there a passage in your scripture that you base your reply on or is it based on tradition alone?

Dear Bob,

both. for example, there is a classic passage in the Talmud where two rabbis are walking near the Temple ruins and lamenting that "the place which atoned for the sins of the people of israel through animal sacrifice lays in ruins! To which the second rabbi responds,''be not grieved, my son, there is another way of gaining forgiveness-through deeds of loving kindness for Hosea 6:6 says "Lovingkindness I desire, not sacrifice." Just one example.

Dear Rabbi,

Thanks so much for the information. I have often wondered about this because of the emphasis in the new testament about forgiveness being appropriated by the shedding of Christ's blood. It sounds like your theology blends in with the thinking that as long as you are a good person, doing good works, you are right with God.

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