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A Shameful Act

Written by הרב דניאל קירש, 26/7/2019


"ואם נחרבנו, ונחרב העולם עמנו על ידי שנאת חנם, נשוב להבנות והעולם עמנו יבנה, על ידי אהבת חנם" (אורות הקודש ג', שכ"ד).

A Shameful Act

They had spent hours writing the script, and then hours more practicing. There was no doubt in Chana’s mind. Her class’s Purim play would be the best in the school. And it all be due to Chana, and her perfect imitation of Mrs. Green, the biology teacher.

The long awaited day arrived. The entire school gathered in the auditorium, along with the families of the students and staff. Chana was a little nervous, as the crowd numbered over a thousand people! She quickly got over her stage fright, though, as she anticipated the hysterical laughter of the audience, in response to her impersonation of Mrs. Green.

Chana waddled onto the stage, padded with numerous pillows, and jutted her abdomen out, in order to highlight her plump appearance. A fellow “teacher” on stage greeted Chana: “Oh hello, Mrs. Green!”

No sooner had the words come out of the other girl’s mouth, that there was a sudden cry heard from amidst the audience. Mrs. Green could be seen, head in hands, dashing toward the exit. A few paces behind her was Mr. Green, who was clutching the hands of his two little girls, and running after his wife. As the other teachers caught wind of what was happening, they too stood up, and stormed out of the auditorium in protest.

Chana was left in the middle of the stage, clutching her pillows. Members of the audience began to chant “boo!” Chana stood frozen in place, as hot tears coursed down her cheeks. It was clear to all present that the Purim play was over.

That night, Chana gathered together with some classmates, and tried feverishly to get in touch with Mrs. Green, to no avail. It was only the next day, when class resumed, that Mrs. Green spoke with them.

“Girls!” she sobbed “You have no idea what it’s like to struggle with a weight problem. Do you think I choose this? Do you have any idea how hard I’m working on losing weight? Do you have any idea what it’s like to have your weight brought to the attention of a thousand people? Especially when one of those people is my husband, who is supposed to think that I’m beautiful. Do you know what the worst part is, though? Last night, when I was putting my girls to bed, one of them said to me ‘Mommy, why did they make you look so disgusting?’ and I didn’t know what to answer her.”

Several months passed, and Yom Kippur was approaching. A delegation of girls came up to Mrs. Green, and asked for her forgiveness. Is Mrs. Green required to forgive the girls?

Answer of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, shlita:

Shulchan Aruch states (siman 606, se’if 1) that a person who offends his friend must appease him. If he is not appeased after the first attempt, the offender should go a second and third time. If the victim is not appeased after three attempts, the offender does not have to attempt to make any more attempts. The Rama writes that the victim should not cruelly withhold forgiveness. (Additionally, the Mishna Berura states that anyone who is quick to forgive is forgiven for his own sins.) However, in our case, a simple apology would not be sufficient. Due to the tremendous embarrassment that the teacher suffered, the girls are obligated to offer some compensation to the teacher. There is room to say that the girls are obligated to monetarily compensate the teacher, for the embarrassment she experienced. At the very least, the girls must provide some significant form of appeasement, and demonstrate that they learned a lesson from the experience. An example of this would be if the girls accept upon themselves that from now on they will not make fun of any teacher, for any reason. This would be the most desired take home lesson.

In summary: Only after a significant attempt at appeasement, and possibly monetary compensation as well, as well as a demonstration that the girls have learned their lesson, and will be careful in this area from now on, would the teacher be obligated to forgive the girls.


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