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Dr. Susskind's articles

Below is one of Dr. Susskind's articles reflecting his approach that integrates traditional Torah teachings with the insights
of contemporary psychology, in understanding marriage and other intimate relationships. He discusses Torah's view of
forgiveness ( as opposed to resentment). Torah forbids us to hold on to resentment. Torah explains that anger blinds us to the
need we have to love and be loved. Torah clarifies that we can overcome the cognitive distortions that entrap us within our own anger.

Parshas Kedoshim and the gift of forgiveness

Resentment is an acid that damages its container.

From my perspective as a family therapist, the greatest treasure in our Torah-inheritance is the instruction to free ourselves of anger and resentment, especially in dealing with close relationships. Literally hundreds of sources in Jewish writings over the ages warn us that sustained anger is forbidden, destructive and ultimately irrational.

The paradigmatic, quintessential Biblical injunction against anger is found in this week's reading, Parshas Kedoshim, Leviticus 19:17-19:

"You shall not hate your brother in your heart. . . You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge."

The Talmud notes that "anyone who foregoes revenge merits that G-d forgives all of his sins. " It further advises that G-d loves a person "who does not get angry . . . and who does not insist on his due measure. " Maimonides goes further, requiring a person to "wipe the wrong from his heart entirely, without remembering it at all. " A contemporary psychologist will paraphrase this as "The challenge of relinquishing anger presents an incredible opportunity for personal growth. "

Does this mean that we should be passive victims in the face of abuse? Absolutely not! The very same Biblical portion cited above tells us that we must verbally confront someone who has wronged us, in order to avoid hating him in our heart. We must do so directly and emphatically, but without hatred and without destroying the relationship. Similarly, we have an obligation to protect ourselves and not put ourselves in a vulnerable position where the offence may be repeated. At the same time, we need to do so without speaking hostilely or taking an action that goes beyond self-protection, without vengeance, or withdrawing into a cold, judgmental contempt, or prolonged silence.

Many counselors report a recurring tragic family scenario: Over the years, a man has maintained an angry distance from a relative, (a wife, parent, child or sibling). Suddenly, the relative dies, and the man's love, long masked by a veneer of anger, erupts into awareness and the man is racked by regret and guilt. "How could I have wasted these years, when I could have. . . .?"

Traditional Jewish philosophy offers us some protection from such tragedy.
Torah says:

All too frequently, I meet people who believe two lies:
1) I have no choice about being angry. . . It is not under my control or voluntary choice. . .
something outside of me has that control and it makes me be angry;
2) It is my right to be angry and no one has the right to take that away from me.

Torah sets our thinking straight by asserting two truths:
1) you can exert voluntary control over whether you hold on to anger , or act and speak in anger ;
2) anger is not a right. . .it is a curse.

May we use the inspiration from this week's Parsha to reach out to someone in a spirit of loving forgiveness.