“May this Torah be a legacy in your family.”

This blessing was given to us by an American Airlines employee, after a challenging conversation about bringing a very big bag containing a sacred Torah scroll through security and into the airplane. The conversation turned from: “It is impossible!”, said stridently and conclusively, to an authentic, meaningful encounter.

Nothing in our life has been more rewarding than the moments when a potential power struggle has morphed into an authentically meaningful encounter.

Here is another such story:

The story is a very personal one that pertains to my relationship with our son Avinoam. Avinoam is an ultra-orthodox Jewish man, with 11 children. On this September 11, two days before the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, Yumi and I went for a visit. We brought a big bag of books for the children. We had in our own way looked over the books to make sure they were appropriate for an ultra Orthodox Jewish family. However, after inspecting the books, our son felt that only two out of the eleven books were appropriate. We took the other ones back home with us, to the deep consternation of the children.

Something very important happened after this visit. I thought about my commitment to the process of “mechilah.” Mechilah is the Hebrew word for compassionate forgiveness, which is a task to undertake during the days of self-reflection, before the holiday of Yom Kippur. And so I looked at where mechilah needed to be given.

Suddenly I had a realization: I need Avinoam’s forgiveness for not reaching out to him to consult on the appropriateness of gifts. It was not right that I did not talk it over with him. I saw it fully from the world he lives in, and through his eyes and heart.

I let go completely of my pain about the children’s upset and focused on our son as a dedicated father, who teaches his children deep core values. Surprisingly, I felt energized by crossing the bridge to our son’s world. I decided to call Avinoam and ask him for mechilah.

I said: “Avi, I called you to ask for mechilah. I am asking for your forgiveness for not consulting with you about what gifts to bring to your children. I caused so much pain.” Avinoam said: “No, it is not you who caused the pain. I am the one who caused the pain.” Then he said: “I have meant to talk to you many times about the appropriateness of gifts, and I haven’t.” Then he added warmly: “You just did what a grand mother does naturally.”

We had a very sweet talk. We gave each other mechilah. Avinoam then proposed that we take it one step further, because he explained: “Compassionate forgiveness needs to be translated into action.” And so he said: “Let’s go together, and let’s buy gifts for the children that will land just perfectly in our family.”

From potential power struggle to authentic encounter, from coping with a situation to embracing life in connection, that is the potential wired into each of us as the true nature of our humanity. May we all live to see a planet where authentic encounters and our genuine humanity shines through.