Daniel Feldman lives in Woodmere, New York with his wife Sandy and son Chaim, 19. Daniel is a child of deaf adults, or CODAs, as well as the father of a deaf child. He designs computer training manuals and courses for corporations, schools and individuals. He has written articles about applying ethics to improve people’s methods of learning and encourage better employee relations. Daniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You have told me how often over the years you have felt that people have wronged you. Being deaf is difficult and often painful. People sometimes make fun of you. Hearing people leave you out of their conversations.
In school, you often missed classes because your therapists had to help you during those sessions. Many of your teachers tried to adjust to your schedule, but could do only so much to help. You were angry that you had to miss class. You often came home crying, unable to understand the work, with no one in your school available to spend the extra time to explain it to you.
You were so angry, in fact, as to feel unforgiving. How, you wondered, could people be so insensitive or lazy about helping you when you needed help? You had every right to be angry.
I shared your anger, and sometimes expressed it to your teachers and principal. Often, I succeeded in improving the situation, but more often I failed. And I, too, felt unforgiving.
With Yom Kippur now behind us this year — we spent much of this past Wednesday in synagogue asking God to forgive us for our sins – let me share a few words about the concept of forgiveness.
God may be able to forgive us for sins we committed against Him, but he cannot forgive sins that we have committed against other people. In a sense, we have to be responsible for our own damage control. You’ve probably heard this principle in your yeshiva (religious school).
I know how you feel. When I was a teenager, I was angry, too. My parents were deaf. I spent a lot of time helping my mother and father communicate with others. I often found myself in the middle of disagreements within my family. I was placed in a position where I had not only to interpret what people were saying but also to negotiate compromises. So that made me angry. I just wanted to be left alone to enjoy my free time the same as any other young boy.
On top of that, some of my classmates made fun of me because my family was “different” – even my friends. That made me angry, too.
Most of all, I was sometimes angry at God. He had made me the child of deaf parents. I just wanted to be the same as the other kids in my class.
But around Yom Kippur years ago — I was probably all of 20, a year older than you are now – I came to a new understanding. I realized that harboring anger was harming me far more than those causing the anger. I no longer expected apologies from anyone, nor would I demand any. So I did something I had never done. I took a bold step.
I forgave everyone I felt had wronged me. To a person – family, friends, classmates. Unconditionally.
Yes, I know this action defied logic. But Yom Kippur, in a sense, also defies logic. God, too, has every right to be angry at us – we’re a stubborn species, we humans; we always think we’re right about everything; we’re blithely unaware of the wrongs we commit – yet we ask God to forgive us.
And He does. God forgives us. Unconditionally.
That’s what happens every Yom Kippur. How, then, if we ask forgiveness from God, can we do anything but extend the same forgiveness toward others?
So rid yourself of your anger toward others – your resentment, too. You may soon come to recognize that people are just ignorant. Or are actually trying to help you. Whatever the case, let forgiveness be your solution.
After all, it takes courage to forgive. All of humanity desperately needs such courage. But if you learn to forgive others, you will be rewarded. I promise you that, my son. So pray. Pray for God to grant you this bravery. The choice is yours.