The Bridge to For­give­ness: Sto­ries and Prayers for Find­ing God and Restor­ing Wholeness

Karyn D. Kedar
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By – November 14, 2011

If you define for­give­ness as sim­ply accept­ing someone’s apol­o­gy, then you’ve tak­en just one baby step toward the bridge that Rab­bi Karyn Kedar would like you to cross. Because on the oth­er side of the bridge is a world where for­give­ness finds rel­e­van­cy in almost every­thing we say and do. Just some of the lessons taught are for­giv­ing your­self, for­giv­ing oth­ers, and for­giv­ing the fun­da­men­tal unfair­ness of life. Alter­nat­ing between poet­ry and essays that often draw inspi­ra­tion from the nat­ur­al world, Kedar ele­vates for­give­ness into a spir­i­tu­al practice. 

Kedar’s med­i­ta­tions on for­give­ness touch on themes rang­ing from love, to loss, to anger, accep­tance, learn­ing, and restora­tion. Her insights can be coun­ter­in­tu­itive and quite refresh­ing, as in the essay that deals with choos­ing your friends. Take inven­to­ry of the peo­ple in your inner cir­cle, Kedar implores. Decide whether each is a tak­er” or a sus­tain­er.” Tak­ers are those who bore you, or who are crit­i­cal or judg­men­tal. Sus­tain­ers are the ones who bring mean­ing and under­stand­ing to your life, whose chat­ter is inter­est­ing. Who nour­ish your soul.” Her take-home mes­sage here is not to for­give the tak­ers because they don’t real­ize how destruc­tive they are. It’s to dis­tance your­self from those peo­ple — and to for­give your­self for doing so.

While the major­i­ty of her entries are thought-pro­vok­ing, if not pro­found, Kedar’s prose tends toward flow­ery, and she occa­sion­al­ly stretch­es the notion of for­give­ness too far. Take her essay about a fam­i­ly ski trip in which her daugh­ter, Shiri, skis into a tree. Although Shiri’s body is unscathed, her ego is deeply wound­ed. Shiri decides not to ski any­more and cries her­self to sleep that night. It’s OK to fear the moun­tain, but you should also respect your­self,” Kedar writes, cor­rect­ly point­ing out that the sport involves fear, con­fi­dence, risk, and com­pe­tence. She tells us that Shiri wakes the next morn­ing with courage renewed and gets back on the slopes. But the first and only ref­er­ence to for­give­ness” in this essay gets shoe­horned into the very last line: For­give­ness is the inter­ac­tion of fear and con­fi­dence, risk and com­pe­tence.” Huh? 

Despite minor weak­ness­es, this book— its pages adorned with images of a foot­bridge and a bird in flight — would make a love­ly, inspir­ing gift to any­one in your inner cir­cle — the sus­tain­ers, and espe­cial­ly the takers.

Robin K. Levin­son is an award-win­ning jour­nal­ist and author of a dozen books, includ­ing the Gali Girls series of Jew­ish his­tor­i­cal fic­tion for chil­dren. She cur­rent­ly works as an assess­ment spe­cial­ist for a glob­al edu­ca­tion­al test­ing orga­ni­za­tion. She lives in Hamil­ton, NJ.

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