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Being Forgiving

Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

Forgiving is one of the most special things we can do. It is also one of the most difficult. In this week's portion we learn about how merciful God is, and how He is ready to forgive us when we mess up, even if we did it on purpose. When we try to act the same way and forgive others, we become better, more spiritual people.


In our story, a girl learns the power of forgiveness.


The day had started out as any normal day, until I got the knock on my door that gave me what was maybe the biggest challenge of my life.

I had just gotten home from school. I'm not a super brain or anything, but I enjoy what we study in Day School, especially the "values" stuff that gives me good ideas about how to act in all the situations life throws at you. Lately we were learning about how good it is to forgive people, and how God forgives us even if we mess up big-time.

I'd been in this school since we moved almost three years ago, and I liked it much better than my old school. The main problem with my old school was a girl named Rose. Despite her name, the kid was all thorns, and she had made sure to tear into me whenever she could. I mean, for years she used to make my life miserable, always letting me know, and everyone else too, how awful she thought I was in every way.

She'd get other kids to put me down for no reason, and one time she even convinced all the kids I had invited to my birthday party not to show up after they said they would. Boy did I cry sitting alone in my house that day, and boy did she laugh at me the next day.

So you can understand what a relief it was to move away from there and never have to see her face again.

So there I was sitting and doing my homework, with old school memories the last thing on my mind, when I heard the doorbell ring. I got up to answer it and when I opened the door, I couldn't believe it. It was Rose! Bigger and older than when I had last seen her, but definitely Rose. I felt myself shudder, and I could hardly open my mouth. Though it had been three long years, it seemed like only yesterday. What was she going to do to me now?

I guess she noticed my reaction, because she started to speak first. "Judy, I'm sure you're surprised to see me. I came to say I'm sorry."

Was this another bad joke? Was there a group of kids hiding behind the bushes waiting to laugh in my face? I wasn't going to fall for it this time. I was about to slam the door, but there was something different about her voice, and a softer look in her eyes that made me give her a chance to say her piece.

She explained to me how since I moved away things had been different in the old school. Some new kids had come in, who more or less 'took over', and now she found herself on the receiving end of the same type of torture she used to give me. "I started to realize how terrible I treated you back when we were younger, and..." Rose nearly broke down in tears. "I got the feeling that the way I acted back then to you is responsible for what's happening to me now, and nothing would help until you forgave me."

Maybe she was telling the truth, but I didn't care. She really had a nerve to think she could make up for years of torture with an apology - even if it was sincere.

I shook my head. "You should have thought of that back then, Rose. Have a good life," I said, as I slammed the door shut.

You'd think it would feel good to slam the door on my old enemy, but it didn't. I guess Rose figured there was no point arguing because I saw her walking away, head down, as I went back to my homework.

"Now where was I? Oh - on this question: 'List five ways we can act more spiritual and Godly by being forgiving even when it's hard?'" I knew I had been anything but forgiving, but I tried to push away the thought. This question couldn't be talking about a situation like mine ... I mean the kid had made my life miserable for years ... why, even God wouldn't expect me to forgive her now ... would He? Despite my excuses, I knew inside what I had to do.

I figured Rose must have come on the cross-town bus. I looked at my watch - the bus wouldn't be leaving for another five minutes. I dashed out and I made it to the bus stop just to see its door open and people lining up to get on. Where was Rose?

Just then I saw her and ran over to her breathless. "Rose! I thought about it. I really do forgive you. It's not easy for me, but I know God forgives, so I can too."

I don't know if she really understood everything that I was talking about, but from the happy tears coming out of her eyes, I saw she got the point.

"Thank you, Judy," she whispered, as she stepped up into the waiting bus. Our eyes locked a long time as the bus pulled off the curb. It had all been so brief, but there really wasn't any more to say. I'm not sure what it means to feel more Godly, but I do know that I felt great, and somehow, the already sunny day seemed even brighter as I walked home. I still had to do my homework, but I knew it was going to be much easier now that the work had truly hit home.


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Judy feel when Rose first asked for forgiveness?
A. She felt angry and didn't want to forgive.

Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She felt that just as God forgives people, she wanted to act the same way and forgive Rose.

Ages 6-9

Q. Was Judy right to have forgiven Rose?
A. She had plenty of reasons not to want to, after all the kid tried to ruin her life. Yet she realized that God wants us to forgive, when sincerely asked, and by overcoming her pain and desire for revenge, she not only brought a little more Godliness into the world, but she became a greater person.

Q. Do you think Rose was right to think that if Judy forgave her, her own problems might get better?
A. It could very well be. If a person harms someone else, until he sincerely attempts to gain their forgiveness, God doesn't consider that matter settled, and could very well send him reminders such as what happened to Rose. God knows that when people seek and grant forgiveness for wrongs, it is best for all involved.

Q. Can you think of a time when you were asked to accept someone's apology? How did you feel? What did you do?

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Must we forgive those who have wronged us?
A. The Torah asks us to forgive others, provided that they sincerely regret their misdeeds and ask our apology. In such a case it would be considered cruel not to forgive, and after a point the one who refuses to grant forgiveness would now be considered the wrongdoer. Of course that doesn't mean that we should deny our pain, or fail to gain compensation from one who harmed us when appropriate.

Q. Is God's forgiveness of our misdeeds related to whether or not we choose to be forgiving of others?
A. There is a universal spiritual principle that God judges us as we judge others. That would mean that directly proportional to how forgiving we choose to be to others, God will be to us.

Q. Can you think of a time when you were asked to accept someone's apology? How did you feel? What did you do?


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