I felt happy that my love for my daughter was strong enough to break down all my bad middos with one blow
Improving our middos is a lifelong quest. Us simple folks usually set achievable goals, like: Don’t get angry when provoked — but, of course, there are situations when any normal person would get upset. Or: Go the extra mile to avoid an altercation — but sometimes the other person is just itching for a fight.
How about: Try to avoid kepeidos — bad feelings from people who take issue with something you’ve said or done — and if it happens, appease them. But then there are unreasonable people, perhaps even delusional, who turn reality on its head. There’s no dealing with them, you just have to learn to live with their kepeidos. Hashem understands.
That’s fine until calamity strikes.
When my daughter was struck by a life-threatening illness, my paternal instinct screamed, “Protect her!” My mind started racing: What can I do in her zechus?! I was looking for a home run. A special zechus for a very special daughter. I recalled hearing from gedolim, that in a time of danger, any kepeidah — whether justified or not — can add to the danger. Therefore the first order of business should be to remove those kepeidos.
Picking the low-hanging fruit was easy. Asking mechilah from people I dealt with regularly, just in case they may have some kepeidah, took little effort. However a major zechus required a major effort. I knew I had to go hard-core — think of someone who had wronged me, but in his twisted mind was angry with me. Someone who would be difficult to look in the face, and to whom apologizing to would feel insurmountable.
The choice was clear; I could not avoid it. Years ago I had fired a rebbi whose attendance was declining and approaching the 60 percent mark. I spoke to him repeatedly, always with respect, assuring him that I was certain that there was a good reason for all those absences. But the fact remained that the boys needed a rebbi, and they weren’t getting one.
Probably a year later than I should have, I finally fired him. I assured him that he would get all the severance pay he was entitled to. He then made some convoluted argument as to why he was entitled to more. I didn’t argue, I gave him everything he asked for to ensure a peaceful exit. But to no avail. He left angry and besmirched me and the yeshivah with delusional statements. He damaged our recruitment efforts in our community. I attempted through intermediates to achieve at least a cold peace, but was rebuffed. I finally gave up and got used to the scene where he crossed the street when I approached. This went on for years.
Now I approached him with humility and a broken spirit. With a breaking voice I told him that I need a refuah for my daughter, so I’m begging him to forgive me. That I want him to say, “I’m mochel you with all my heart” and mean it.
He was so taken and touched that he grasped my hand warmly, and assured me that he’s mochel b’lev shaleim. He then asked me for my daughter’s name, and assured me that he’d be davening for her three times a day.
How did I feel? I should have felt humiliated, but I didn’t. I felt happy that my love for my daughter was strong enough to break down all my bad middos with one blow. I felt strong in my emunah that Hashem would accept my korban and put it on the top of her zechusim pile.
Actually Hashem rewarded me in a totally unexpected way. My daughter’s neighbor once mentioned to her in passing that her husband’s chavrusa had mentioned to him that he had a kepeidah on me. Many decades ago the chavrusa got divorced from a relative of mine. It was a difficult divorce and he felt he was besmirched. According to the information he had, I was involved in the besmirching. Since this harmed him for many years, he held a serious grudge against me.
I asked the neighbor to arrange for a phone conversation, in which I was able to assure him that I had always liked him and never had a bad word to say about him. I explained to him why the person who fed him misinformation about me did so. He accepted my explanation and embraced my offer of friendship. We ended up apologizing to each other, and of course he offered a brachah for a refuah shleimah.
Just think of the Hashgachah pratis involved. Someone is walking around with a decades-old grudge that I don’t have an inkling about. And through a chain of events, some from years ago, it comes to my daughter’s attention at the exact time when I’m searching for unresolved kepeidos. There’s no doubt in my mind why. It was the direct outcome of my indicating that I would do anything to remove any kepeidos against me.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 856)
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