I remember vividly waking up early with my sister, making scrambled eggs for my dad before he and my mom would awake from their sleep. I must have been eight, my sister five. We would take out the eggs, the beater, a glass bowl, lots of spices, and the frying pan.
The problem was, we were not allowed to turn on the stovetop burner to actually cook the eggs. My partner in crime and I both knew we were not allowed to use the fire, but we persevered -- cracking the eggs in the bowl, beating them, adding the spices, and the placing the frying pan on the cold, unlit burner.
We toasted bread (we weren't allowed to cut bagels by ourselves), poured orange juice, and placed it all on the " breakfast-in-bed platter," used once a year on the same exact day, Father's Day.
We let the eggs sit on the cool frying pan for about 10 minutes, and then proceeded to dump them into a bowl.
Now don't get me wrong. I was not a dumb third grader and I knew the eggs were not cooked. But I also knew how excited my dad would get every year when we would climb the stairs in our PJ's and descend upon our parents bed. I felt like I could not take away that happiness from him.
As we entered the room, I could hear my parents climbing back underneath the covers, pretending to still be asleep. We would knock gently and announce, " Happy Father's Day, Dad!" My sister began to tickle my dad and I carried the tray.
" Wow!" my dad would exclaim. " What a nice surprise!" He and my mom would then start with the toast and jelly, and it was not until age 6 that I noticed them subtly dumping the eggs into the orange juice cups which they always drank quickly when we first entered the room. As an 8-year-old, I felt the need to protect my younger sister from the disappointment that our parents did not really partake of the raw eggs.
Rejoicing in efforts even when the outcome is a total failure exemplifies my father.
This idea of rejoicing in efforts even when the outcome is a total failure -- exemplifies my father. I don't think he knew it then, but he instilled in me a sense of how to give people the benefit of the doubt -- thinking about where they were coming from and seeing their efforts -- even when the results were not successful.
We find this idea presented in the Torah: " You shall judge your fellow with righteousness" (Leviticus 19:15). The Talmud explains from here that we should give others the benefit of the doubt. A certain action looks unusual? Don't assume stupidity or maliciousness; assume there's a valid reason.
How many times have we harmed a relationship and been embarrassed at having " jumped to the wrong conclusion" ?
This mitzvah goes beyond the interpersonal benefit. On a spiritual level, God judges us just as we judge others. We humans are imperfect. We hope that God overlooks our faults and gives us credit for our efforts -- even when we fall flat on our faces.
If we are forgiving and overlook shortcomings, so will He. On the other hand, if we are harsh and punitive, He will be, too. In the words of the Talmud: "One who judges others favorably will be judged favorably in Heaven."
My father could have been frustrated or disappointed, but he never was. We served raw eggs for many years on Father's Day morning, which he endured with a smile on his face. He gave his daughters the benefit of the doubt, not only when we were young and it was expected, but even as we grew into teenagers and adults -- making tons of mistakes, errors, bloopers and slip-ups.