All of us make mistakes. In fact, some of the great people (like King David) in the Torah committed grievous wrong-doings and went on to repent, to be truly forgiven and then to become leaders and great heroes of Israel. The question of giving people a second chance has been debated for millenia.
Now let’s think about children specifically. When a child makes a mistake, is it appropriate to give him/her a second chance? Of course, it is. We all believe that children, despite their childish misdeeds, have good hearts at the core and that they can and will learn from their mistakes.
Mistakes of all kinds are human, normal and essential to a child’s development. Our own mistakes and the mistakes of others provide everyone in our school family with opportunities to learn interpersonal communication skills, empathy, conflict resolution, resilience and genuine kindness. Mistakes are a blessing in disguise – An opportunity to learn some of life’s most difficult yet valuable skills!
When someone’s mistake is hurtful towards another person, it can be harder to forgive and forget. As adults, it is our job to teach and model for our children how to rise above; how to open our hearts with empathy; how to avoid gossip and lashon hara; how to forgive fully (teshuvah); how to give second chances. At school, we focus on empathy-building with the children. Putting oneself in the other’s shoes and understanding what is behind the misdeed or behavior can help us to forgive and (like the Rabbis Shimon and Yochanan) to save our community.
Children who make mistakes need our guidance, re-direction and support, not our disparagement. We must lean towards children when they make mistakes, not lean away. It is natural to want to pull away, to walk away, to dismiss or to ignore those who have hurt us. Granting a second chance, however, is built in to the worldview of Judaism. If it were not for this concept of granting second chances, none of us could live in peace with one another.
With Tu B’shvat upon us, what better time of year to reflect on second chances? It is a time for new beginnings, fresh starts, renewal and growth. As you enjoy Tu B’shvat, I encourage you to reflect as a family on the importance of forgiveness and second chances in strengthening our communities at both home and school.