The week we read Parshat Miketz, in which Joseph’s brothers realize what they have done to harm their brother. They realize their mistakes, and declare: “אשמים אנחנו על אחינו” — “we are accountable to our brother.” Acknowledging and taking responsibility for what we have done to hurt or harm others is the first step in the Jewish process of teshuvah, of reconciliation. To do teshuvah, we first need to bring to consciousness the ways in which our actions caused harm. At Heschel, when a student does something that causes hurt or harm, we strive to address the issue within the framework of tikkun and restorative justice. We ask the student to first acknowledge what he or she has done and to take the time to reflect on the harm it has caused. Then, together with the student, we think about what needs to be done in order to do tikkun – in order to fix the problem and mend relationships. The process of tikkun involves several steps and is less straight forward than an action-punishment model. However, it is far more effective and enduring in the long run. The story of Chanukkah is a story of tikkun and restoration of the temple.
This Shabbat, and when we light our Chanukkah candles, may we each consider how we can do our own forms of tikkun by acknowledging our mistakes, the harm we may have caused, and how we can mend relations.
Shabbat Shalom Vechag Chanukkah Sameach,