A strong believer in the critical importance of international standards of law and justice in the wake of the travesties and human atrocities committed against the world’s most vulnerable citizens during the twentieth century, I follow seriously any attempt to bring individuals and entities to trial before the International Court of Justice. And so it was, with that perspective in mind, that I was amused by the story in this morning’s Jerusalem Post, about a Kenyan lawyer attempting to bring the State of Israel to the Hague for the death of Jesus.
The case is, obviously, absurd by almost any measure of the word. The Bible is a book of meaning, not a court document. Ignoring the fact that the Church long ago gave up on the theological presumption that Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus, suggesting culpability through to the modern state of Israel (or Italy!?) is nothing short of ridiculous. And any assertion that some lawyer from Kenya in 2013 has grounds on which to sue, makes the recent California debate vis-a-vis Proposition 8 and alternative claimants look like an open-and-close case.
But none of that has me itching nearly as much as the fact that, even assuming a crime was committed in the crucifixion of Jesus, and assuming that responsibility can and should be levied at modern Israel, and that this lawyer has grounds on which to sue and make this case, seemingly lost in this episode is the fact that there is no statute of limitations placed on the crime, no ability to realize that, two thousand years later, it might just be time to move on and forgive.
That should not mean forget. We Jews, after all, are the most successful rememberers on this planet. But no one would ever suggest – honestly – suing Italy for the destruction of Jerusalem, Iraq for the destruction of the First Temple, or all women for our banishment from the Garden of Eden.
The fact is, as important as justice is, as crucial as it is to hold people responsible for their actions and, in our modern world, ensure that the most vulnerable are protected from those with power, we cannot allow such systems of accountability distract us from our own needs to let go and move on. Otherwise, we all have claims on someone else. Each of our peoples have been wronged by history, cheated, destroyed, swept aside.
But how long do we hold on to past centuries’ curses, letting that hurt prevent us from celebrating this century’s blessings?
We are closing in on the High Holy Days, a time when we will ask for forgiveness, from our friends, from ourselves, from our God. We will try to let go of all the pain we have caused in this last year.
But how much time will we spend letting go of the pain others have caused us?
The reality is that, in focussing, endlessly, on the wrongs committed against us by others, the only person we hurt is ourself. The wrong-doer has likely moved on. Continuing to wait for an apology, continuing to feel hurt and cheated, continuing to wait for justice to be meted only keeps us on and endless merry-go-round of pain and longing, when sometimes it’s just time to move on.
Who cares if they righted their wrong? Are you going to let your life continue to be destroyed by the pain they have already caused, or are you going to move on, go forth, and grow, despite, or to spite them?
Justice is important. Crucial, in fact. And no one can be expected to come to terms with the pain caused to them, just because.
But sitting around and waiting for an apology, or searching for it so long after the fact that all the players are long since gone, is a waste of your own life. And certainly a waste of the good that universal understandings of justice can do for this world.