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Forgive Me

Simchas Torah and October 7 occurred, and the world changed



Rivka L.* called me before Rosh Hashanah.

Although she had lived in Eretz Yisrael for almost 15 years, she continued to call me occasionally. She stayed in touch when personal issues arose and felt my input would be helpful. Through phone calls and emails, I followed her life in Eretz Yisrael and was thrilled when she found her bashert and announced she was getting married.

So when Rivka called me before Rosh Hashanah, I knew something was causing her to lose sleep.

She explained that Leah, one of her single friends from high school, was struggling religiously. And she, Rivka, was struggling with how to relate to Leah and her religious instability. She wanted to be there for her friend, yet she didn’t want to condone her friend’s lack of observance.

During the discussion, it became clear that she felt she had hurt Leah’s feelings, which was the cause of her anguish. Rivka felt she came down too hard in rebuking Leah’s behavior, that she had been too judgmental and perhaps could have been more understanding and sympathetic without validating her friend’s lack of observance.

I suggested that she call her friend before Yom Kippur and ask mechilah.

A few days before Hoshana Rabbah, a distressed Rivka called me back to tell me she’d texted Leah and left a voice mail; however, she still hadn’t heard back from her.

I suggested she try calling again before Hoshana Rabbah, as that day is considered a critical day in the teshuvah process.

She promised me she would call Leah again, and she did.

But Rivka never heard back from Leah.

Simchas Torah and October 7 occurred, and the world changed.

Rivka called me again, this time terribly distraught. She had just found out that Leah had attended the music festival on Simchas Torah and, tragically, was one of the victims of the massacre.

Besides her grief at the loss of a friend she had known for years, there was an additional pain. She cried as she told me she never knew if she had indeed been forgiven by Leah. The pain that her friend was no longer among the living and that she had no more opportunity to ask mechilah gave her no rest. She pleaded with me for guidance.

I had no answer for her.

I had no great words of wisdom or comfort to offer.

My only suggestion was, “Give tzedakah and cry out to Hashem for guidance. He will take over from there.”

Weeks passed, and I had not heard back from Rivka. Until last week when the phone rang in my office.

Breathlessly, Rivka related how she had been davening to Hashem and telling Him how she had asked her friend Leah for mechilah and how much pain she was in because she had no way of knowing if she had been forgiven.

I listened.

She told me that she’d decided to give a substantial amount of tzedakah to an organization that helps those who are struggling religiously as a zechus for Leah. She made no conditions or “deals” with Hashem. Yet she felt it was the proper thing to do.

Finally, she told me the words I never could have imagined hearing.

She had received a phone call from Leah’s mother. Leah’s mother told Rivka that she had finally received the recovered property from her daughter. Among the things returned to her was Leah’s journal. The last entry was from Hoshana Rabbah, October 6.

There was just one sentence: “I saw Rivka texted me again. I have decided to be mochel her. I will call her after Yom Tov to tell her I forgive her.”


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 993)

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