Forgive and Forget
If someone does something to offend us, quite often the natural reaction is to want to take revenge and get back at him. But this week's Torah portion teaches us that there is a better way. The Torah tells us that not only should we not take revenge, but we should not even hold a grudge against the person. Instead, we should try to erase the anger from our hearts. By forgiving and forgetting, we can start to heal the wounds inside ourselves, and also improve our relationships with others and do our part to make the world a kinder place.
In our story, a girl struggles with her pain as she tries to forgive and forget.
Robin sat, shaking her head, as she stuffed the frilly, gold-edged invitations into their matching envelopes. Could her big 12th birthday really be right around the corner? It seemed like just a short while ago she was just a little kid, but now Robin was feeling very grown up.
Growing up was certainly something to celebrate, and the special party she had planned was certainly going to fill the bill.
As Robin went down the rather lengthy invitation list, she felt a lump in her throat. She had purposely left off the list her cousin, Jana. Jana was only a year older than Robin. Growing up, the girls were very close friends, and even though they had found their way into different crowds as the years passed, Robin always considered their relationship a close one.
That's exactly why she was so hurt when Jana had failed to invite her to her party last year. In fact, Robin had to admit to herself that one of the reasons she was so looking forward to her own party this year was the chance to take revenge and leave Jana off her guest list as well.
But now that the moment had come and she was getting ready to send out the invitation without Jana, something just didn't seem right. "What will I gain by hurting someone this way?" she asked herself. If revenge was supposed to taste sweet, why did the thought leave such a bad taste in her mouth?
No, she just couldn't do it. Robin quickly grabbed an extra invitation and hastily scribbled her cousin's address that she still knew by heart. Just then an idea struck her.
"Well at least I can use this as a chance to make a point..." she thought. She took out her pen and wrote underneath the invitation, "Because 'I' would never hurt anyone the way you hurt me."
Robin sealed the envelope, the last of her invitations, and set out for the mailbox across the street. She slid the invitations one-by-one through the mail slot. But as she reached out with the last invitation - the one for Jana - her hand seemed suddenly heavy, as if it didn't want to move. Something about Jana's invitation was bothering her. Did Robin regret inviting her cousin after all? No, that wasn't it. Then she realized. "Why should I rub salt on the wound by reminding Jana about what she did to me? Isn't that also hurtful?" She tried to dismiss the thought and mail the invitation, but her hand just wouldn't let her.
"Okay, you win," she said to her hand, as she dashed back into her house. Robin tore up the invitation in her hand and wrote out a new one, this time with a different note that simply said, "Please come!" She sealed the envelope and mailed it, feeling like a huge rock had come off of her chest. Robin felt as if she had truly forgiven her cousin, and that was a grown up decision really worth celebrating.
Q. At first, how did Robin feel about inviting Jana to her party?
A. She felt that she didn't want to invite her cousin since Jana hadn't invited her.
Q. How did she feel about it in the end?
A. Robin realized that not inviting Jana would just be trying to hurt her by getting even, which Robin realized wasn't right to do.
Q. What's wrong with wanting to get even?
A. While it may be a natural feeling to want to hurt someone back who has caused us embarrassment or pain, it's not right to hurt someone else, even if they have hurt us. Hurting another person does nothing to take away our pain, and quite often only motivates the other person to try to hurt us even more. We should do what we can to protect ourselves from getting hurt, but getting even only adds more negativity to an already negative situation.
Q. Why do you think Robin decided not to send the comment she had written on her invitation?
A. Even though it was a mature and courageous act for Robin to invite a cousin who had previously snubbed her, it wasn't enough. She realized, that including the not nice note was also a hurtful act, designed to make her cousin feel bad. Only once she was able to hold back from even doing this, did Robin feel like she had really ruled over her desire to take revenge.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. The Torah asks us to neither take revenge, nor bear a grudge. What is the difference between the two?
A. Taking revenge means acting negatively toward someone as 'payment' for something negative they did to us. For instance, refusing to lend something to someone who doesn't lend us his things. Bearing a grudge is more subtle. We may not do anything negative to the person, i.e. we lend him what he asks for, but we still remind him of how he mistreated us. For instance, we point out to him as we are lending, that our behavior is better than his. The Torah wants us to strive for a level where we are able to let go of even this.
Q. How will a person's level of faith and trust in God influence his revenge taking or grudge bearing?
A. Part of trusting in God is realizing that everything that happens to us is an orchestrated part of His grand design to help us grow spiritually and reach our personal potential. People who cause us difficulties along the way are part of that design. If they have chosen to act negatively, we trust that God will see to it that they will face whatever consequences they need to. But for us, we will continue to be the nicest, most kind people we can be, bearing no grudge, and helping out whoever we can, however we can.