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iStock_000005417329XSmallA Situation:

The man gazed guiltily at his old friend across his congealing plate of huevos rancheros.  He’d flown into Albuquerque the day before, two months after he’d watched his wife lose her battle with breast cancer.  Now, as he ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant, he agonized over the affair he’d had during his previous visit to Albuquerque a year earlier.  His wife had already been diagnosed.  He’d been scared and lonely.  He’d wanted to forget his troubles, if only for an hour or two.  “I should’ve stopped myself,” he sighed now with remorse.  Both men felt uneasy.  What the speaker wanted, more than anything else, was to make amends.  He wanted forgiveness, too.  But now that his wife had died, who could forgive him?  Most importantly, he wanted to be made whole once more; in other words, he wanted redemption.  But to whom could he make amends?  And who could forgive him? Where was redemption to be found?

A Midrash:  

Wisdom was asked:  what is the punishment of a sinner?  and answered:  sinners will be prosecuted by [their own] vice.

Prophecy was asked:  what is the punishment for the sinner?  and answered “the soul that sins, it shall die” [Ezek. 14:4].

God was asked:  what is the punishment of the sinner?  and answered:  let him do repentance [teshuva] and be expiated. 

Reference:  Amos Funkenstein, Perceptions of Jewish History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 69.

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