39 - The Laws of Asking Forgivness part 3

There are three different levels of willingness to forgive others...

We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chusim for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.

Review

Last week’s stretch of the week was:  Work on forgiving someone in your heart whom you’ve already forgiven verbally. 

Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.

Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #39

DINEI M’CHILA--LAWS OF ASKING FORGIVENESS - דיני מחילה

PART 3 – For Ones Own Good  

Halacha

There are three different levels of willingness to forgive others:

Some people forgive anyone who wronged them if that person comes over and asks forgiveness.  Others go out of their way to meet those who wronged them to make it easier for them to ask for forgiveness.  People on the highest level explicitly state each night before they go to sleep that they forgive anyone who insulted them even if those people will not ask for forgiveness on their own. (Aikev Anavah)

When we forgive others, we are helping ourselves as much as we are helping those whom we forgive.  We are elevating ourselves as much as we are helping those whom we forgive.  We are elevating ourselves and will feel much better when we forgive than if we would keep on adding more and more resentment.  Try it for a couple of weeks.  At night think about any difficulties you had with others and forgive them.  Notice how it will change your attitude towards those people the next day.  A person who threatens, “I’ll remember that,” or “I’ll get even with you,” hurts himself more than he hurts others.  Why suffer from resentment when you can choose to get pleasure from forgiving? (Excerpts from Gateway to Happiness by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)

One is justified in withholding m’chila when it is for the benefit of the asker, so that he will not make a habit of his misbehavior, or for the benefit of the one who is being asked to forgive, if he thinks that he may suffer damage if he forgives the offender quickly or easily.  Nevertheless, when he senses that the offender is genuinely sincere, he should relent and forgive him.

(Excerpted from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rav Yitzchok Silver)

Story(based on a true story)

As the principal of a girls elementary school yeshiva, I have my share of nachas as well as challenges.  Over the years I have learned that for the sake of chinuch, one must sometimes employ "tough love" in order to instill the proper lesson.  At times this may also involve withholding automatic m’chila in order to teach the students the importance of doing t’shuva for a wrongdoing.

I will never forget an incident which occurred several years ago in our school.  One of our most qualified fourth grade teachers, very beloved by her students, was out on maternity leave.  Having had plenty of time to find a substitute, we had hired a very lovely woman with a background in teaching.  Even though she had not taught for several years, as she was busy raising her four boys, she jumped at the chance to get back into the classroom for six weeks.

While she approached her teaching post with much enthusiasm and an assorted collection of materials and techniques, the girls had other plans.  Missing their own beloved Morah very much, they decided to teach "the substitute" a lesson she would hardly forget.  Beginning with her first day on the job, the girls let her know how displeased they were to see her.  Their assorted pranks included calling out, sitting at desks that were not their own in order to confuse the teacher, chewing gum loudly during the lesson, and chutzpadik responses to all the teacher's questions.

While the teacher tried valiantly to win the girls over with interesting lessons and prizes, she was nevertheless struggling to maintain order and discipline in the classroom.  Finally after about ten days on the job, she arrived in my office with tears in her eyes.  "I am so sorry, Mrs. Schwartz, but this does not seem to be working out.  No matter how hard I try, I cannot win the girls’ respect." 

Hearing all the details of the girls' shenanigans infuriated me to say the least.  I assured the young teacher that consequences were in order, and that I had a plan which would ensure the restoration of order in her classroom.

The following morning, the girls were surprised to see their principal in the classroom upon their arrival.  I noticed several of the shocked faces quickly dispensing of their gum, hoping that I would not notice, as gum chewing was against school rules.

"Girls," I began, "I realize how much you miss Mrs. Cantor.  She looks forward to seeing you in a few weeks, and sends her regards.   In the meantime, we have provided you with Mrs. Hess, a wonderful and experienced teacher.  It comes as quite a shock to me that since her arrival you have forgotten not only basic school rules, but basic derech eretz as well.  In light of this memory lapse, I regret to inform you that the upcoming ice skating trip for the 4th grade girls has been cancelled.   Furthermore, I believe that Mrs. Hess is owed an apology from each and every one of you in writing.  I know that starting today, she will experience the kavod and derech eretz which she deserves, and you are all capable of giving her."

Suffice it to say that within 24 hours the girls had each produced an apology letter for the teacher.  Their collective behavior did a 180 degree turnaround, and that same week the teacher reported that classroom decorum was what it needed to be.  The girls were cooperating and learning.  There was no gum chewing, no calling out and no chutzpa.  They also elected two representatives to speak with me about the possibility of reinstating the long-awaiting ice skating trip.  

After careful thought I decided not to reinstate the trip.  While I did tell them that I would accept their apology for outlandish behavior, the trip was a privilege which they had not earned.

Withholding this privilege and "automatic m’chila" would hopefully teach them a lesson they would not forget.

Discussion Question Options:

In what ways might forgiving someone quickly damage the victim?  In what ways might it damage the asker?

How can we tell if someone is being truly sincere in their apology? 

Is it too risky to hold back forgiveness from young children?  Could it teach them more about holding a grudge than forgiveness?

Stretch of the Week:

Apologize to someone you’ve harmed, and make sure that you feel and act sincere.

 

 

Stretch Of The Week