Tuesday, October 19, 2010


We usually introduce the subject of teshuvah as saying 'I'm sorry', but an article in today's Wall Street Journal highlighted the difference between the two.  In particular, please read the inset here that appears in the article

Saying 'I'm Sorry'

A 'comprehensive' apology is more likely to win forgiveness, researchers say. There are eight elements:
  • Remorse
  • Acceptance of responsibility
  • Admission of wrongdoing
  • Acknowledgment of harm
  • Promise to behave better
  • Request for forgiveness
  • Offer of repair
  • Explanation
Source: University of Waterloo
Maimonides states the steps of teshuvah as follows:

  1. Realizing what you did was wrong
  2. Confessing to the wrongdoing
  3. Correcting the wrong you caused
  4. Acting properly when confronted with the same situation that led to the original wrongdoing

Here are some questions to help you think about the difference between "I'm sorry" and "teshuvah"

  • What is the purpose of "I'm sorry"?
  • What is the purpose of teshuvah?
  • What step that leads to teshuvah is missing from the "I'm sorry" list above?
  • How does this help you understand teshuvah?


In an article in the NY Times today entitled Lessons in a Life Well Lived, and Values Upheld there is a charming quotation from the wife of the subject, Alice Hartman Henkin, who writes
A guarantee you that if Abraham had been ordered to sacrifice his grandson, he would have said, "Buzz off"

Monday, October 18, 2010


The story about Abraham welcoming his visitors is well-entrenched as part of Jewish wisdom.  We should be hospitable, yada, yada.  There are probably still cultures in which this sort of absolute and unquestioning hospitality is still the norm - but they're not the culture we live in.  If a stranger comes to your door you are more likely to call 911 than to break out the food and drinks, and with good reason.
We understand that reaction, but it's still sad that we have such fears, justified though they may be.  Fortunately there are settings in which we can be more open to new relationships, as expressed in this commentary at Ten Minutes of Torah:  VaYeira, 5771

Please be sure to click on Vayera in the labels column for more suggestion for thinking about this week's parasha.   Also, remember to check Parsha 4 Kids for a ready-to-go trigger you can use with middle school or high school students.  And feel free to comment on the idea at either site, yourself or with your students.