Family Parsha Ha'azinu 5768
Yom Kippur is a day in which God gives us another chance. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, God decides how good of an upcoming year we deserve, based upon how well we behaved the year before. But He gives us a chance to improve, and if by Yom Kippur we sincerely commit to behaving better from now on, He will forgive us for our previous mistakes and give us a better year that we really deserved. We can learn from this to give people 'another chance' and not hold their past mistakes against them if they really want to improve.
In our story, a kid discovers that sometimes giving someone another chance is a chance worth taking.
Jon watched gleefully out of the corner of his eye as his little brother Greg moved his checker piece. The second he put it down, Jon pounced like a lion. "One, two, three, four - quadruple jump - game over - and you lose!" he laughed.
The young boy looked really upset. "Oh come on, Jonnie. Gimme a second chance - let me take the move back just this one time, pleeease! It was a mistake. I never would have made such a bonehead move if I'd known!" the little kid begged.
"Sorry, chump. No second chances in this life. Game's over. Now go scram, I have studying to do."
"But Jon, at least then can we make it two out of three..." Greg's pleas were cut short by the telephone's ring.
"...Keith from chem. class... Oh, hi, how're you doing ... you want to get together at the library this afternoon and study together?... 4:00?...sharp? Fine, bye."
Jon looked at his watch - 3:30. That would give him just about enough time to grab a quick snack and book on over. He got to the library at 3:58 and sat down. By 4:05 he was starting to get a little antsy - and by 4:25 he was furious. Some nerve that kid had to call him up, set the time to study and then not even bother to show up! Jon flipped open his chemistry book and tried to study on his own, but he was so mad it was hard to concentrate. He started tapping his pencil hard on the table and by 4:45 after the librarian sternly shooshed him too many times, he decided to just forget it, pack up and go home. He didn't know who would end up being his homework partner that semester, but it sure wouldn't be that unreliable Keith. He'd had his chance and blown it - no second chance!
It was 5:15 and Jon was back at home and pushing off his little brother who still wanted a checkers rematch when the phone rang again.
"Hello Jonathan. This is Keith. I'm calling from the library..." Now Jon was going to really let him have it. The guy probably just got there and wanted to apologize and ask for another chance - well no way!
"Keith, do you know what time it is?" Jon asked tensely.
"Well, yeah. It's 4:15. That's why I'm calling to see if everything's okay?"
What? Jon looked up at the kitchen clock - since he'd taken off his watch when he'd washed his hands. Keith was right ... it was 4:15, not 5:15! But how could that be? Then he remembered. They had moved the clocks up an hour the night before, but he had forgotten to change his watch!
"Um, yeah ... I guess I messed up with the new time. I'm, um really sorry." Jon scrunched up his eyes, expecting to receive the kind of blasting he had been just about to give. But instead, he heard friendly laughter on the other end of the line.
"Well, no big deal. Everyone messes up sometimes. It's probably a little late to start heading out now. Let's give it another chance tomorrow, okay buddy?"
Jon mumbled an embarrassed 'thanks' and hung up. Wow - he was sure glad Keith had been understanding and had been willing to give him a second chance... Just then, his brother walked by.
"Um, Greg. Come to think of it, maybe the checkers game did end a little too fast. Want a second chance?"
Q. How did Jon feel at first about giving people second chances?
A. He didn't feel they deserved it.
Q. How did he feel about it in the end?
A. He felt so good that his friend gave him a second chance that he decided to do the same for other people.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Jon learned that day?
A. He had gone through life with an unforgiving attitude that if someone did something wrong, he didn't deserve a second chance. His experience with his friend - his making a mistake and his friend's forgiveness - showed him there was another, kinder way to be.
Q. Do you think a person should give someone a second chance - always - sometimes - or never?
A. It all depends on the circumstance. While generally speaking it is right to be forgiving and give people second chances, if we feel like he will use our forgiving attitude to seriously hurt us - it is better not to.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think there is any correlation between how forgiving we choose to be with others and how forgiving God is with us?
A. There is a direct correlation. God chooses to look at us through the lenses through which we look at others. The more forgiving we choose to be, the more forgiving He is of us. For that reason alone, it's well worth giving people a second chance!
Q. Discuss the idea: "Giving people a second chance applies to ourselves as well."
A. Often we tend to be our own worst critics. While we might have a generous eye towards others - on ourselves we can be brutal. But the Torah way is to realize that we are only human and bound to make mistakes. Though we should try our best, when we mess up - and we will, everyone does - we should be willing to forgive ourselves and begin again.