“I’m sorry…” the voice is still, almost indiscernible. “I’m sorry, Zeidy….” still very low, but it’s all I need. I sweep the defendant off his feet and hug him. All is forgiven, the tears wiped away. He’s sorry, and that’s all we needed to hear.
This little pageant is played out in thousands of homes probably every single day. Small grandchildren have a patent on making trouble, and they find doing it in Bubby’s house even easier. Most thriving heimishe homes are pretty much childproof. Nothing of real value exists at ground level; everything is put out of harm’s way for the next twenty-odd years. Children know all closets are locked, and the good stuff, like toothpaste (great for coloring windows) and cola drinks (works wonders shampooing dolls’ hair, and even better on little brothers), will be kept far away from prying hands.
However, at Bubby’s it’s open season. From one visit to the next the old folks (me for instance) forget how much mischief their sweet angelic sweethearts can get into. All too soon bits and pieces of games are underfoot and expensive tzatchkes are wobbling on shelves. Stains are created that defy the imagination, and the loveliest of spoiled grandchildren becomes trying on the nerves.
Then comes the big one, that one act of destruction that makes everything else pale into insignificance. Something irreplaceable breaks, something that is a family heirloom. It’s just the way things are; nothing will stop this from happening. Then words will be said, and the perpetrator of the chaos will be told in no uncertain terms, “Go tell Zeidy you’re sorry!”… “Now!”
The little villain tries to wriggle out of his predicament. After all, he doesn’t want anyone to think he’s not perfect. But Mommy won’t relent. “Right now – go say you’re sorry.”
Well, there’s no getting around it, so our little tzaddikel shuffles into Zeidy’s room. Tears slide down his chubby cheeks as those magic words are intoned, and everything becomes right again.
Like I said, it’s a scene enacted in every home on a regular basis. However, I want you to stop a moment to think about it. What is really happening here? Mischief has been done, the miscreant has paid his debt with his remorse and the most powerful being in his world has shown him that all is well again. What strikes me most is not that Zeidy accepts this apology time and again, but that the child has the faith in his Zeidy’s love to ask for it.
The child is not stupid. He knows he has done things wrong in the past, said sorry, yet once more fallen. How does he come to ask forgiveness yet again? Because he never doubts his Zeidy’s love. That love comes without conditions. A Zeidy loves without reason.
In truth, this love is a facet of the “image of Hashem” we each carry within. Hashem is the Source of all love. He created this place we live in as a sign of His giving character. We, created in His Image, want to give love as well, and we do so to those closest to us.
Much of our davening revolves around our asking forgiveness, even though we have erred time and again. We can do this because within our souls we know that Hashem is a loving Father Who will always be there for us. This is one of the most unique and important factors in our relationship with Hashem. His is a love with no boundaries, and we mere humans mirror these feelings for those close to us.
The psalmist left us many moving passages that express this, one of which is this particular kapitel.
Ratzisa Hashem artzecha…, “Hashem, You have shown favor to Your land, You have returned the captivity of Jacob. You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people; You have pardoned all their sins, sela.”
David sees into the future, and he speaks on one level about our ultimate redemption. There will be a time when we as a people will be returned to Eretz Yisrael. We will live there in a holy state, forgiven for all the sins that came about through the stress of living in galus.
David speaks on a personal level as well. He tells us that each of us will be pardoned of our sins as long as we hold onto the realization that we are His people.
Shuveinu Elokei yisheinu…, “Return to us, Hashem of our deliverance, and annul Your anger toward us.”
Just as a miscreant youngster, we too make mistakes. We wreak havoc upon our souls without even realizing how much harm we are doing. Little kids run into their home, shoes filthy with mud, just after Mommy finishes washing the floor – and oops, look what they have done without even realizing it. We don’t see the spiritual mud we traipse into our lives, but our loving Father does.
Hale’olam te’enaf banu…, “Will You forever be angry with us? Will You draw out Your anger to all generations? Will You not indeed revive us again, so that Your people may rejoice in You?”
The child stands near Zeidy’s table; to him it seems huge. He is both frightened and confident at once. He knows that Zeidy can’t always be angry with him. He feels intuitively that Zeidy wants to revive their relationship, that in fact it was never really severed, just obscured. A Yid feels the same way. He asks Hashem to revive him, to give him the needed spiritual insight so he can rejoice in his connection with eternity. Hareinu Hashem chasdecha…, “Show us Your kindness, Hashem, and grant us Your salvation. Let me hear what the Alm-ghty Hashem will speak, for He will speak of peace to His people and to His devoted ones.” The chastised child accepts that his Zeidy wants to show him kindness. We too ask to see Hashem’s kindness, so we can see true salvation. We become free when we accept at all levels that everything sprouts from Hashem’s goodness. When we push aside all the egoistic screens that obscure the voice of Hashem ringing in our ears, then we will hear and understand that Hashem’s Torah has always been the truth of all reality. This will bring a peacefulness within us that will be the greatest of kindnesses we could ever hope for.
Chessed ve’emes nifgashu…, “Kindness and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed.”
This sentence is a true marvel. It sweeps our hearts towards real spiritual calm. When Hashem allows us back into His embrace, then everything becomes united and falls into place. The sweetest of feelings come when goodness is balanced in one’s heart and the soft kiss of peace is felt.
Emes me’eretz titzmach…, “Truth will sprout from the earth, and righteousness will look down from heaven.” The Emrei Emes, zy”a, remarked that when you bury falsehood, truth sprouts forth. A child makes a mistake, but from his remorse sprouts a new creative truthfulness. It is creative because it was born from an active act of contrition.
Yidden, Hashem waits to caress our bruised and battered souls. He looks down from the heavens, waiting, waiting…just as a devoted Zeidy waits with love.