Fools mock at making amends for sin,
but goodwill is found among the upright. — Proverbs 14:9
We’ve all had the experience of making mistakes. Maybe we said something we shouldn’t have said or did something we shouldn’t have done. But not everyone has done so on public television!
During the baseball season, an incident was caught on camera where Cincinnati Reds baseball player Joey Votto mistreated a fan. The four-time MLB All-Star was going for a catch when a fan put out his own hand to catch the ball that was clearly headed for the stands. Because of the fan’s interference, Votto wasn’t able to make the catch and get the opponent out. In anger and frustration, he grabbed the fan’s shirt, directly where the Cincinnati Reds logo was placed, and gave the man a humiliating look of disgust. Then he walked away as if to say that the fan should have supported his team better.
To anyone looking on, it was obvious that the fan had no intentions of hurting his team. He clearly thought the foul ball was something he would be lucky enough to take home as a souvenir from the game. Clearly, Joey Votto’s actions were out of line. And being the baseball star that he is, Votto could have gone on like nothing had ever happened, but he didn’t.
Shortly after that play, the TV cameras caught Votto looking regretful while sitting in the dugout. He took a baseball and wrote the following message on it: “Thanks for being so understanding when I acted out of character.” He signed his name and gave the ball to the fan whom he had insulted. He apologized and made amends.
I love how Votto described his behavior as being “out of character.” When he acted inappropriately, he simply wasn’t behaving like himself. The Jewish sages teach that the only way a person is capable of sinning is if he is not using sound judgment. If we were completely sane all the time, we would never sin. In fact, Judaism teaches that after a person passes away and they come to judgment, we will all plead insanity!
However, making a mistake while “out of character” is one thing. Apologizing for it is another. We are all bound to behave in a way we might be embarrassed about later when we come to our sense. But the important part is what we do next.
In Proverbs we read, “Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.” It’s foolish to stop short of making amends. Like Joey Votto, we can mess up, but then, let’s make it up. Let’s be resolved to make amends, foster goodwill, and be upright.
It’s human to make mistakes, but it’s humane to apologize for them.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President