Thursday, November 19, 2009

Confessions of a Thief

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Question of the Week:
Rabbi you must keep this completely anonymous. I need to make a confession to you. I have stolen a huge amount of money from my business partner. This has gone on over the last three years, but my guilty conscience has caught up with me and so I felt I had to confess. Can you tell me what I must do to be forgiven?
Again, please keep this anonymous,
Bruce Hakowitz
(667) 567 8390
Bruce, I am glad you have come forward with this. I am sure it has been a burdensome secret to keep, and it is good that you have owned up. But you have confessed to the wrong person.
The Jewish tradition does not believe in confessing sins to a clergyman. As a rabbi I have no right to confer forgiveness on someone who has wronged someone else. You have to go to your partner, admit your wrongdoing and beg him to forgive you. Only the wronged party can forgive.
Apart from that, you must return what you stole. You can't expect to be forgiven while enjoying the benefits of your wrongdoing and leaving the injured party out of pocket. In Jewish law, a thief must return double what they stole if they were caught, but if they admitted guilt themselves before being caught, they need only return the stolen amount. This you must do to be fully exonerated of your misconduct.
And finally you need to ask G-d for forgiveness, for it is His law that you have broken. But remember, even G-d can't forgive you until you have apologised to your fellow human being whom you have hurt.
Once you have done all this, you need to forgive yourself. We have all done wrong, but if we take responsibility for it, try to correct it, and resolve not to repeat it, we must then move forward. Let this be a turning point for you. From this moment on you will be extra-honest and super-trustworthy. It will take hard work, but what was once your weakness should become your strength.
Bruce, I wish you well. Since you have asked this be left anonymous, I will respect your request.
All the best,
(Not my real name)
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