May 23, 2024
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May 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

One of the most annoying things about being a teacher around the yomim noraim is that my students keep coming over to me and asking me for mechilah.

Now I know I’m not supposed to be annoyed by people asking me for mechilah. Imagine if Hashem got annoyed. But Hashem, as an infinite being, has infinite patience, whereas I don’t.

They even interrupt class to ask me this.

“Any questions?”

“Mr. Schmutter, are you mochel me?”

“That’s not relevant to the lesson. In fact, you interrupted the lesson to ask me this, so that makes it worse.”

“Doesn’t that make it relevant?”

The annoying thing is that most of these are kids who, in the short time between the beginning of the school year and Rosh Hashanah, have already managed to do something they have to ask me mechilah for. What are the chances that they’re going to behave better in the 9 ½ months after this?

Even some of the good students ask me for mechilah, though generally after class.

I ask them, “What did you do? You don’t misbehave.”

And they say, “I might have said loshon hara about you.”

And I say, “I assume you did. Every student says loshon hara about me. You come home and tell people, ‘My teacher is Mordechai Schmutter,’ and they ask, ‘Is he as funny in real life?’ No matter what you say at that point, it’s loshon hara.”

So I always tell them no. I know you’re supposed to be mochel everyone, and in the moments before Yom Kippur I probably am, but there’s no way I’m going to tell them that I am. I’m supposed to be strict. If I say I’m mochel them, they’re not going to say, “Well, I guess we owe him one for being mochel us for all the bad stuff we did in the very first week of class. Let’s be nice the rest of the year in recognition.” No, they’ll say, “Well, look how easy it is to ask for forgiveness! Much easier than asking for permission!”

So I’ve been making it harder.

But despite what you’d think, saying no doesn’t get them off my case. They’re going through a charade here and they just want a yes, because everyone else gives them a yes right away. They don’t think about the question, and their friend doesn’t think about the answer. So my answer slows them down. I hate that they ask me, though, because they’re making me lie right before Rosh Hashanah.

And I know they’re not sincere, because they ask me before Rosh Hashanah and then again before Yom Kippur, and there’s always something they did in between to ask mechilah for, even though there are about two days of class in there.

“Are you mochel me?”

“Great. What did you do?”

“Nothing. For anything I may have done.”

“I’m your teacher. You’ve known me for a week. You don’t remember if you’ve done anything?”

“I have a horrible memory.”

“Thanks for admitting that. Remember that you said this the next time you claim I didn’t warn you to stop doing what you’re doing.”

“Clearly I won’t.”

And they’re asking the wrong person. I’m not even the one you hurt every time you interrupted class. I already know all the stuff I’m teaching. Are you going to call the parents of every kid in the class and ask if they’re mochel you for wasting their kid’s time and their tuition money? Or do you think that asking me would be good enough? You’re like the guy who’s cutting in line, so he asks just the person directly behind him, who now gets to speak for the entire line, as their representative. I’m going to decide that all the parents are mochel you?

That said, it happens to be that I don’t always say no, unless it’s a particularly disruptive student. Sometimes I just tell them, “I always say no to students,” because I don’t want them to take the heter to keep making trouble.

“Well, I haven’t listened to a word you’ve said since Labor Day. Hence, I am not your student.”

But look—I do a lot of things they don’t forgive me for too, such as giving them work. They hate that. They ask me not to do it every day. But do I listen? No. So do I have to ask mechilah for giving them work, just because they don’t realize right now that it’s good for them? Maybe I can turn it around on them. I can ask them, “Are you mochel me for all the work that I gave you so far and am going to continue to give you for the rest of the year?”

“Um… I guess?”

Let them see how hard it is to be mochel me when I say straight out that I’m not going to stop.

Or they’ll say, “Well, if we agree to be mochel you, are you going to stop giving us assignments?”

And I’ll say, “Well, if I’m mochel you, are you going to stop misbehaving? It’s been one week and already you misbehaved.”

“Well, it’s been one week and already you’ve given us assignments.”

“You think those were assignments? Wait until I start giving you essays.”

“We’re not going to be mochel you if you give us essays.”

“Well, your parents won’t be mochel me if I don’t.”

This is why teachers get the big bucks. Because we lose either way.

The only issue with this dialogue here is that we’re equating my assignments with their misbehaving, which is not a great road to go down.

I guess I could say, “Well, I sincerely believe that my assignments are helping you. Is your misbehaving helping me? Also, I’m getting paid to give you assignments. Is someone paying you to misbehave? Because them I am not mochel.”

I think this whole conversation is much better than me just lying and saying no.

See? I’m improving this year already.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published seven books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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