Joke: guy has a dream of a huge golden #5 floating over his head.

Wakes up, eats 5 bowls of cereal… checks the races… The 5th horse in the 5th race of the day is called The 5th element! Bets $5,555 and guess what happened! You would never believe it… but the horse came in 5th!

In 2015, a British scientist named Sir Tim Hunt, a Nobel Prize winning scientist who helped discover the protein molecules that control the division of cells.no less made a visit to South Korea. During the course of his speech he made a bad joke about women that fell flat and for which he apologized. However someone in the audience tweeted his joke and next thing you know he had become an international pariah.

Became target of forced to resign his position at University College London, forced to resign his position at the Royal Society. European research council. withdrawal from public life and professional activities.

Despite that he was obviously joking, despite his wife being a well-respected scientist of her own, despite so many defending him, despite his decades of public service. Despite being a human being and human beings make mistakes, he was condemned.

Ours is an unforgiving age.

Dr. Jordan B Peterson is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, a clinical psychologist, a public speaker, and a creator of the famous book Self Authoring. He has a huge following because is a counter cultural figure willing to challenge political.

This summer was set to serve as a research fellow in the Cambridge Divinity School. Someone discovered that somewhere on Facebook that someone unknown had taken a selfie with Dr. Peterson at a lecture he had given.

That night after his lecture probably hundreds of people took pictures with him. He didn’t see it…

But the Cambridge school of divinity obviously never heard of forgiveness. Or maybe they have heard of justice and due process. But with no V’darsahta v’shalata v’chakarta…..

Nothing said in his defense, not even from the faculty at Cambridge, his colleagues.

We live in an unforgiving age. No one gave these people the chance to justify or explain their actions.

Now let me contrast this with two men who DID actually do something bad. Something so bad that we would understand if we were to say that their sin was so bad, that it was indeed an unforgivable offence…

The one who said “MAH betza, what gain from selling our brother…

That was a real sin. And yet, he becomes the father of the Kings of Israel.

Because he owned up to his mistake. he said I sinned, G‑d has discovered our sin….

He was willing to become a slave for his brother Benyamin.

Yosef forgave him. G‑d forgave him.

Now a king, the most famous king of all of Israel saw a beautiful woman on the rooftop and committed terrible sin.

But he said the most powerful form of confession. Straight and to the point with no equivocations or explanations. He said “I have sinned. End of sentence.

He said more than that. “vchatasi negdi Tamid”.

These people had done real sins. Not just a bad joke and standing next to someone with a crass t-shirt.

And because they were forgiven we have the greatest Jewish poet ever,

All Jews are actually named after Yehuda.

Because our G‑d is a G‑d of forgiveness.

The prayers tonight “Hashem, Hashem kail Rachum V’chanun”

What happens when we lose the work of G‑d’s forgiveness?

We end up on Facebook where anyone can accuse, anyone can judge, anyone can destroy someone else’s life.

It is in this non-forgiving culture that only people who can survive and be “successful” are the people with no shame who have no compunction or regret for their sin.

But in a culture of forgiveness we can make mistakes, but we can be honest, we can be candid and say Ribono Shel Olam, master of the universe, I know I have let you down, I know I have let my friends down, I have let my community down etc.

And G‑d forgives.

Tonight is Yom Kippur, the day of forgiveness, the day where we can be honest and ask for forgiveness.

Todays is also the day we need to be willing to give forgive. To let go of our anger our resentment, our hurt, our ego and pride and say I forgive. I recognize that, like Yehuda and like King David, you too are human, you too can make mistakes, and you too can grow from that mistake to become a better, kinder, more sensitive human being.

It is amazing to me how many families I know where one member of the family does not talk to the other. Where people are holding onto grudges and misunderstandings of twenty years ago, and still have not been able to forgive and forget, and to grow from the experience.

I saw an amazing statement: To ask forgiveness, to give forgiveness, does not mean that you are admitting you are wrong. It means that you value the relationship more than your ego and pride.

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STORY OF TEACHER WHO CLOSED HIS EYES .shared by Rabbi Shloime Levenstein, a teacher living in Israel.

Not long ago, a young man introduced himself at a wedding to an elderly school teacher. "30 years ago, I was a student of yours.”

The teacher replied, “please remind me your name... oh yes I remember the name. How have you been?

How is your family? What are you up to? What do you do for a living?”

The young teacher replied: “I am a school-teacher. I teach third grade.”

“That’s great! Wow. What inspired you to enter this field of work?”

“This is all thanks to you!”

“You teach because of me, how come? What did I do?”

The young teacher replied: "I will remind you, my dear teacher, the story, and you will understand”.

“When I was a young boy in school, one of my classmates, who was not yet bar mitzvah, received an expensive watch. In those days no one had a watch before they turned bar mitzvah. Only if they came from a wealthy family, they would receive a watch as a gift. All my classmates gathered around him to see the new watch. We were all jealous. During the break, the boy put the watch on his desk and when he returned, the watch had disappeared.

Our teacher came to the classroom and told us that whoever took the watch must return it. Of course, no one did. He asked us all if anyone has taken the watch. Of course, I denied stealing anything.

The poor boy who lost his watch was devastated. So the teacher instructed us to stand by the wall with our eyes closed, and he asked of each student to empty out everything from his pockets, with the pockets outstretched. But everyone’s eyes must remain closed.

So we did, and sure enough the watch came out of my packet.

I was sure he would get me in big trouble and scream at me for stealing such an expensive watch from a classmate. But to my surprise, my teacher took the watch without anyone noticing, without anyone seeing, sat back in his chair, returned it to the owner, and said to the kids:

“I want you to know that the watch was not stolen; it was taken by one of the boys who is just struggling with a yetzer hara (the negative inclination we all struggle with). This boy is struggling with a challenging instinct. This boy is not a thief and he is not a bad boy. He is not a liar and he is not a troublemaker. He is a good boy and he has the power to overcome every moral obstacle in his life, because his soul is a piece of holiness and goodness.”

That teacher was you.

I was so relieved that you told everyone to close their eyes so they would not know it was me. You saved my dignity that day. You spared me profound humiliation.

Yet, I thought that later you would take me to the side privately and chastise me. I waited for you to confront me, to share how terrible my behavior was. But as the days went by, you had not mentioned anything. Slowly, the incident was forgotten. You never brought it up again; you never treated me differently. You never looked down at me. You held up my honor not only for others, but also for myself.

You did not make me feel that I was a thief and a liar. You changed my life that day. You helped my see myself in a different way.

I was so amazed by your behavior. I thought to myself that if this is what it means to be an educator of children, then this is the career I want for myself. If this is the impact a teacher can have on a child forever,

I want this job! I want to save the dignity of beautiful children who may be struggling or may not know right from wrong. So is studied education and I became a teacher.

The older teacher was deeply moved.

The younger teacher, his former student, asks him: “How did you manage not to label me? You must have seen that I was the thief. How did you hold back from rebuking me?”

The older teacher replied: “I did not see that it was you. For my eyes were also closed... I never knew it was you who took the watch.”

The teacher did not only not allow his students to look; he did not even allow himself to look. He did not want to label his beloved student. This is the Ayin Tovah—the good eye—Rabbi Eliezer speaks of. It is the blessing of having the ability to live with such eyes… To be able to look at ourselves, our children, our friends, and all peoples, with such eyes. To be able to restore dignity to everyone we come in contact with; to be able to see the good in ourselves, in our loved ones, in everyone we meet, and in every situation.

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Not only do we need to be quicker to forgive, we need to be less quick to judge others. Not only is our age an unforgiving age – it is a highly judgmental age.

We are judged by what we read, by what clothing we buy, by where we live, by our jokes, by our “Facebook friends” who never even met us. Society has become so quick to judge.

I don’t need to tell you how dangerous this is. How many relationships have been destroyed over a quick – but mistaken – judgement.

In all of our relationships, we need to be careful about making snap judgments based on how things appear to be… The fact is every life has a multidimensional story to it, and until we know the whole the story, we mustn’t presume to know – to really know – what a person is all about… It is only when we connect, open our hearts, and listen with genuine interest to a fellow human being’s story and circumstances that we can truly know what’s really going on with them… 

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This is one of the most enticing and welcoming features of Chabad. No one judges you here.

It’s not that at Chabad we forgive you for your sins, or that we accept all the lifestyle choices or desires that people have. But we don’t look at what we don’t need to know.

WE don’t judge because like the teacher who didn’t want to know which student had messed up – we don’t want to know where you messed up, or how you messed up. We only see the good and the potential within you – your beautiful soul!

The Rebbe never went for any of these adjectives and categories we have a habit of placing before the word Jew: “Reform Jew”… “Conservative Jew”… “Reconstructionist Jew”… “Orthodox Jew”… “Modern Orthodox”… “Yeshivish Orthodox”… “Yeshivish Black Hat”…… We’ve got more labels in the Jewish world than Macy’s and Nordstrom’s put together!...

Once and for all: a Jew is a Jew, is a Jew, is Jew!… I don’t care if you call yourself a Democrat, Republican, truther, birther, impeacher, Trumper, Never-Trumper… All I really care about is the fact that you have a nehomoh – a Jewish soul – and that’s all I see when you show up to pray, to be a part of this community or participate in any Chabad program…

As I always tell people my favorite line: Labels are for shirts – not for souls!...   

So, I want to take this opportunity to encourage all those who are not yet a regular part of our ongoing services, classes, programs and events to come on in and be a part of the life-enriching blessing that is a “kehillah” – a thriving Jewish community… The door is always open to you and yours… No obligations… Just come on in and build some healthy new connections and friendships…

Above all, it will enable and empower you to be more loving and less judgmental. More quick to forgive and less interested into holding onto past grudges.

At Chabad we have an open heart to every Jew. No judgement, no labeling, no categorizing, just a pure loving and sincere welcome to our home.

But we can only open our hearts as much as you open your hands.

It is not easy to fund a non-labeled, open and welcoming home where anyone can come, without paying membership or dues. Many like to belong to their “box” and support what they label themselves as. But as Chabad we have no labels, just an open heart and an open door policy.

So tonight we ask you to open your hearts and open your wallets, so that we can continue to open our hearts to every Jew in need.

May each and every one of us be inscribed and sealed for a happy, healthy and sweet New Year – with all our hearts desires fulfilled for good!