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“Do you want to play cards with me?”
That was the question my child asked one of our Shabbat guests many years ago. She, I’ll call her Bracha, considered his suggestion and shook her head. As she did so I seethed with annoyance. Bracha hadn’t gone to Friday night services and she wasn’t looking over the Torah portion. She didn’t want to nap nor did she ask me if I needed help getting the meal ready. Would it have been so difficult to take ten minutes or so to entertain one of my children?
My irritation only increased the following morning when Bracha asked if my toddler could lower his voice. Although my husband and older children would be coming home from services soon and we’d be sitting down for our Shabbat lunch she and her friend still wanted to sleep. I was probably a little snippy when I informed her this particular child was suffering from an ear infection and not able to modulate his voice.
Recently I listened to a Torah lecture by Mrs. Chana Juravel in which she stated the guest who doesn’t like our children is the guest we never invite back. Ah-hah! I was vindicated, for I’d never asked Bracha and her friend to come for another Shabbat. As the talk continued, though, I understood better the point Mrs. Juravel was trying to make.
Just like we’re not happy with anyone who doesn’t like our children HaShem is unhappy with anyone who doesn’t like His.
Maybe I’d been justified by being unhappy with Bracha but what did HaShem think about me writing off one of his children? Now, some twenty-five years later I can only forgive her in my heart and hope that she’s gone on to be a wife and mother and has some understanding of how I felt.
Forgiving is a complicated matter. Every night before going to sleep I say some prayers. Proceeding the Shema I declare I hereby forgive anyone who angered me or antagonized me or who sinned against me- whether against my body, my property, my honor or against anything of mine; whether he did so accidently, willfully, carelessly, or purposely; whether through speech, deed, thought, or notion…
More than once I’ve made this declaration about someone only to find that I’ve forgiven him in my brain but not in my heart. Instead of letting go I play with my bitterness to the person who was unbelievably nasty to me as one plays with a canker store. Instead of forgetting how my so-called friend broke a promise I scratch at the remembrance like an annoying mosquito bite. That’s not true forgiveness and not where I want to be at.
So I reread Yehudit Samet’s The Other Side of the Story and try to give my offenders the benefit of the doubt. I also ask HaShem to help me replace all my negative energy with a positive outlook.
Recently He made a miracle happen. One day I realized that I really had forgiven the nasty person and the promise breaker. Unfortunately, I cannot explain how my brain convinced my heart to come to this new stage. All I know is that I feel much lighter now since I’m no longer lugging the heavy burden of anger. It’s as if I’ve lost ten pounds without even dieting. Rosh Hashanah is the holiday in which we eat rich foods as an omen for a sweet year. Perhaps this year, without my heaviness, I’ll be able to have a second piece of apple pie.
It’s my prayer that all those who I’ve unknowingly annoyed, hurt, or insulted will truly forgive me as I’ve finally forgiven Bracha. I also pray that next time I’ve been hurt, annoyed, or insulted I’ll be able to let go of my resentment quickly.