From this week's Torah Portion

Giving a gift is a way of sending a message. It can bring two people closer together. It can be a way of saying "I'm sorry" or "thank you." In this week's Torah portion we learn about the sacrifices, the special symbolic gifts that the Jewish people would offer to God, as a way of feeling closer to Him. Sometimes the gift was given as an expression of love to God. Sometimes if a person made a mistake and did something he shouldn't have, he would feel bad about it and want to bring a gift as a way to show his feelings. God told Moses that He was always ready to forgive and accept the gifts of people who sincerely wanted to heal their relationship with Him.


In our story two friends share a moment of forgiveness.


Rhonda Sands sat picking at her food, which sat nearly untouched on her plate. Noticing her daughter's unusual lack of appetite, Rhonda's mother sat down next to her.

"Are you feeling OK?" she asked. "I don't think I ever saw you let my fried chicken sit on your plate long enough to cool down."

Rhonda smiled weakly. "I feel alright, mom," she said. "Its just that I think I really blew my friendship with Jane."

Mrs. Sands nodded as Rhonda went on.

"We got into this really dumb argument at school yesterday and I lost it and said some really nasty things to her. I could tell I hurt her a lot. I regret what I said, but I don't know what to do. I doubt Jane will ever forgive me now."

Rhonda's mom got up for a minute and turned off the whistling tea-kettle behind her. "I know how you feel," she said. "You know, I find at times like these a well-chosen 'I'm sorry' gift can go a long way toward healing wounds, and bringing people closer together."

Rhonda's eyes lit up. It was a great idea! The girl started to feel better right away. She considered what to get her friend as she hungrily began to eat her lunch.

A short bus trip to the shopping mall later found Rhonda combing her favorite stores for just the perfect gift. Eventually she decided on a beautiful stationary set, illustrated by Jane's favorite artist.

The next day, Rhonda made sure to arrive at school extra early. She was about to hang the present on Jane's locker where she would be sure to find it when she suddenly felt inspired to write her friend a note and say how sorry she felt. She carefully took out the first sheet from the stationary and began to write.

Rhonda felt amazed, as her deep feelings for her friend just seemed to flow onto the paper. When she finished, she placed the gift on the locker and hoped for the best.

During break, Rhonda sat down on her usual bench in the schoolyard when she felt a gentle tap on the shoulder. She looked up. It was Jane. The girl was smiling, but with tears in her eyes. Rhonda held her breath. Suddenly Jane took her hands.

"Thank you so much for that beautiful gift, and especially the note. Of course I forgive you!"

Rhonda sighed with relief as tears swelled up in her own eyes.

"You did hurt my feelings," Jane went on "But as I read your note I realized how much you really do care."

As the bell rang, Rhonda and Jane found themselves laughing and crying at the same time as they walked back to the classroom as reunited friends.

Discussion Questions

Ages 3-5

Q. What are some things we can do to make up, if we get into a fight with our friend?
A. We should try to feel sorry about what we did, and let them know how we feel. We could also give them a gift as a way to tell them we're sorry.

Q. How did Jane feel when she got Rhonda's note and gift?
A. She felt happy that Rhonda really liked her and wanted to make up.

Ages 6-9

Q. How does giving a gift bring two people closer together?
A. The one who receives the gift will naturally come to feel grateful to the person who gave it, especially if the gift was well chosen and sincerely given. It also allows the giver to express how much he or she truly cares. Interestingly, the giver will also come to feel closer to the one he gave it to, since giving to someone has the automatic effect of making us like them more.

Q. If someone who hurt us or was mean to us comes over to apologize, are we obligated to forgive him or her?
A. It isn't always easy to forgive, especially if we still feel hurt. However it is an important mitzvah to really try to be forgiving, and let bygones be bygones when someone sincerely comes to make things right.

Q. Can you think of someone you need to apologize to?

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Is it really necessary to give a gift in order to apologize? Isn't a sincere "I'm sorry" enough?
A. It's true that a person's feelings, and not the gift, are the essence of forgiveness. But sometimes it can be hard for someone else to know how another really feels inside. When someone takes the extra step of investing his time and money to buy or make his friend a thoughtful gift, he is demonstrating to his friend how important it is to him to patch up the relationship and isn't merely paying lip service to the idea.

Q. Since we know that God is perfect and doesn't need anything, what value can there be in bringing a gift to Him?
A. Giving serves to create a true connection. When a young child makes a simple gift for his parent, even though the parent doesn't really need the gift, and it belongs to him anyway, he is touched by the child's desire to give. So too here. The gift isn't because God needs it. Rather, it's a way of expressing to Him and reminding ourselves how important the relationship is. It demonstrates how we are willing to go out of our way to keep and strengthen the connection.