It’s Hard to Forgive

A selection from Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen”, which deals with the difficulty that forgiving sometimes poses for us.

Resource Ages: 9-11


I’m Really Sorry!
(From: Chaim Potok, The Chosen)

The passages brought here are from chapter 3.  In the Penguin edition – p. 66.

Potok’s book tells the story of two boys, Reuven and Danny. The story takes place in the United States, where baseball is very popular. During a baseball game, Reuven is badly injured after Danny, who is playing for the other team, throws a ball at his face. Reuven is now in hospital and the doctors still don’t know whether they will be able to save his eye. Reuven does not know Danny, the boy who threw the ball, but he feels that Danny hurt him on purpose. A few days after the incident, Danny comes to visit Reuven in hospital.

Note: This source is bound by copyright laws and so we are unable to distribute it in translation. We highly recommend that you get hold of the book and read relevant passages, brought here in Hebrew.  Alternatively, it is legal for you to translate it for classroom use.

This is how Reuven, the injured boy, describes his encounter with Danny:

דָּנִי הָיָה הָאָדָם הָאַחֲרוֹן בָּעוֹלָם שֶׁצִּפִּיתִי לְבִקּוּרוֹ. “לִפְנֵי שֶׁתֹּאמַר לִי עַד כַּמָּה אַתָּה שׂוֹנֵא אוֹתִי”, אָמַר דָּנִי בְּשַׁלְוָה, “הַרְשֵׁה לִי לוֹמַר לְךָ שֶׁאֲנִי מִצְטַעֵר עַל מָה שֶׁקָּרָה”. נָעַצְתִּי בּוֹ אֶת מַבָּטִי, וְלֹא יָדַעְתִּי כֵּיצַד לְהָגִיב. “מָה אוֹמְרִים הָרוֹפְאִים עַל הַסְּרִיטָה בִּקְרוּם הָעַיִן?” שָׁאַל דָּנִי. “מֵהֵיכָן אַתָּה יוֹדֵעַ עַל הַסְּרִיטָה?” שָׁאַלְתִּי. “צִלְצַלְתִּי אֶמֶשׁ לְאָבִיךָ וְהוּא סִפֵּר לִי”. “הֵם עֲדַיִן לֹא יוֹדְעִים, יִתָּכֵן שֶׁאֶשָּׁאֵר עִוֵּר כָּל יָמַי בְּעַיִן זוֹ”. דָּנִי הֵנִיד בְּרֹאשׁוֹ וְשָׁתַק. “אֵיךְ אַתָּה מַרְגִּישׁ כְּשֶׁאַתָּה יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁהָפַכְתָּ מִישֶׁהוּ לְעִוֵּר?” שָׁאַלְתִּי אֶת דָּנִי, וְהִרְגַּשְׁתִּי שֶׁהַזַּעַם חוֹזֵר אֵלַי. “מָה אַתָּה רוֹצֶה שֶׁאוֹמַר?” עָנָה. בְּקוֹלוֹ לֹא הָיָה כַּעַס אֶלָּא עֶצֶב. “הַאִם אַתָּה רוֹצֶה שֶׁאַגִּיד שֶׁאֲנִי אֻמְלָל? אִם כָּךְ, דַּע לְךָ שֶׁאֲנִי אֻמְלָל!” “וְזֶה הַכֹּל? רַק אֻמְלָל? אֵיךְ אַתָּה מְסֻגָּל לִישֹׁן בַּלֵּילוֹת?” […] “בָּאתִי לְדַבֵּר אִתְּךָ”, אָמַר דָּנִי בְּשֶׁקֶט. “וּבְכֵן, אֵינֶנִּי רוֹצֶה לִשְׁמֹעַ”, אָמַרְתִּי, “מַדּוּעַ אֵינְךָ הוֹלֵךְ הַבַּיְתָה? לֵךְ הַבַּיְתָה, וְשָׁם תִּצְטַעֵר עַל עֵינִי!” הוּא קָם לְאִטּוֹ. “אֲנִי בֶּאֱמֶת מִצְטַעֵר”, אָמַר חֶרֶשׁ. “בֶּטַח”, חָשַׁבְתִּי בְּלַעַג. הוּא הֵחֵל לְמַלְמֵל מַשֶּׁהוּ, נִשְׁתַּתֵּק וְאַחַר כָּךְ פָּנָה, יָצָא מִן הַחֶדֶר וְנֶעֱלַם. שַׁבְתִּי לִשְׁכַּב בַּמִּטָּה, רוֹעֵד מְעַט וּמְבֹהָל מִכַּעֲסִי וּמִשִּׂנְאָתִי.

Foundations for Planning

Essential Questions

  • How can I be the best “me” this year? In class, at home, on the playground, etc?
  • How do Jewish practices reflect Jewish values?

Content Questions Related to the Essential Questions

  • How can my mistakes help me grow?
  • Why is it often hard to forgive someone who has hurt us?

Background for Teacher

Chaim (Herman Harold) Potok (1929-2002) was an American rabbi and author whose books often describe the Jewish world in the United States. His book The Chosen focuses on the relationship between two Jewish boys and their relations with their fathers. One boy, Danny Saunders,...

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Chaim (Herman Harold) Potok (1929-2002) was an American rabbi and author whose books often describe the Jewish world in the United States. His book The Chosen focuses on the relationship between two Jewish boys and their relations with their fathers. One boy, Danny Saunders, is the son of an anti-Zionist Hasidic rabbi. The other, Reuven Malter, is the son of a Talmud scholar who belongs to the Modern Orthodox community and is a fervent Zionist.

The difficulty in forgiving someone that is evident in the excerpt exposes not only the individual experience of Reuven in forgiving Danny, but also the groups they represent – rival groups that find it difficult to overcome their mutual anger and hatred.

In-Depth Discussion
Suggested Activities
Further Study

Click here to view our consolidated list of suggested interactive pedagogies for classroom discussion.

  1. What feelings and emotions prevented Reuven from forgiving Danny? Do you think he behaved properly? Explain.
  2. Think of a time when you asked someone else to forgive you. How did you feel? How did you cope with it?
  3. What can we do to forgive others even when we’re angry?
  4. How does forgiveness help both sides – the offending side and the offended side?

For older students:

  1. Sometimes it’s hard for us to forgive ourselves. Why is it important to forgive ourselves?
  2. Throughout the year we encounter situations where people who hurt us ask us to forgive them. Why do you think Jewish tradition sets aside a special day for asking for forgiveness and for forgiving?
  • The students imagine a correspondence between Reuven and Danny after the meeting described in the source. In the letter, they explain themselves and the way they acted. They could write an email where Reuven explains to Danny why he did not forgive him, and a reply from Danny explaining how hard it was for him to ask for forgiveness and why he thinks he deserves to be forgiven.
  • Later in the story, Danny and Reuven become good friends.
  1. Think: what happened over time? What could turn hostility into friendship?
  2. Now think about yourselves: Did anything like that ever happen to you – did you have a rival who became a friend? What caused the change? How can you use this insight to make peace with others in the future?
  • Read the comments by Maimonides in the resource on Reconciliation who rules that a person must forgive their fellow if they ask them to do so and not be cruel. How do his words connect to our excerpt from The Chosen?
  • Read the poem Happy New Year, Ruti by Dalia Bar-El, which examines the other side of forgiveness and hints at the difficulties involved in saying sorry.
  • Play the song Adon Haselichot from the Yom Kippur service and connect it to the idea of the ability to forgive: the tradition teaches us that we should learn from God, who is able to forgive us even for our worst actions. You can find an explanation in Hebrew about this song on the Songs and Prayers website, and an English translation on the website HebrewSongs.