A nineteenth-century Hasidic rabbi once pointed out that a finger held up to the eye can block the sun. For us, a misspoken word or a seeming slight from a colleague can block everything else. It can permanently mar or even destroy a relationship. It has happened to all of us.
For Jews, last week marked the beginning of the New Year. The New Year commemorates, according to the Jewish tradition, the anniversary of the creation of the world. Perhaps we can begin a new chapter in our relationships. Perhaps we can turn the page on what happened yesterday for the sake of what can happen tomorrow.
Can a child teach us to forgive?
A fellow rabbi once sought to urge his congregation to try this. He decided to do an experiment. He cited the standard biblical texts. And then he brought his one-year-old daughter up onto the pulpit. He kept going on with the sermon, as she played with his tie and kissed his cheeks.
Everyone chuckled and wondered what was going on. Finally he stopped and said, “Now is there anything she can do that we would not forgive her for.” Most of the congregation nodded in recognition. Smiling, the rabbi waited for silence and then asked, “And when does that stop? When does it get so hard to forgive? At three? At seven? At fourteen? At thirty five? How old does someone have to be before we refuse to forgive?” (Also Recounted in Naomi Remen’s My Grandfather’s Blessing)
Today each of us can ask ourselves what we are doing to forgive? Are giving people the benefit of the doubt? Are we holding a grudge because it allows us to avoid doing something difficult. The prayerbook asks us those questions. Only we can answer them.