D’var Torah by David Sanders
In the film Atonement there is the “scene” in which the would be lovers quarrel and the young man breaks a precious vase belonging to the young woman’s family.
The dialogue is short but profound for the theme of the movie: Atonement.
Cecilia: You idiot… You realize that’s probably the most valuable thing we own?
Robbie: Not anymore it isn’t.
There are things we break that are irreplaceable—either because they are one of a kind or because of their sentimental value. And then there are hearts we “break” because they are one of a kind and are sensitive.
The theme we will be exploring is whether one can truly be forgiven and forgive oneself. In the two films we will watch at the JCC in preparation for the High Holidays (Days of Awesomeness) there are words spoken and actions taken that in our traditional Jewish teachers refer to as “transgressions that have no repair.”
The word for repair in Hebrew that is used in this context is the word Tikkun.
So is there no Tikkun possible for words and actions that alter the lives of other people?
The word atonement comes from a root meaning to be as one (onement) and in Hebrew to cover over–Kaper—the word in Hebrew starts with the letter Kaf—an inverted “c” and that is the function of the letter both in English and Hebrew—to “c-over.
The definition of atonement is to make amends or reparation for an injury or wrong. Even if a vase is irreplaceable one can set a monetary value and “repair” the loss. But what of things said and done that are beyond a recompense of money?
While there is a formula in Jewish law for all atonements (acknowledging, regretting and confessing) the injury or wrong would appear to remain—especially when the person is no longer alive for direct amends to be made. If there can be atonement for transgressions that have no repair (which we will explore in the discussion of the films) we can feel optimistic that our faults and misdeeds can be repaired with those still living and within ourselves as we breathe.