I WAS WRONG
are the two most important character traits needed for a healthy marriage?
When asked by the shadchan what type of spouse you are looking for, make sure to stress these two characteristics that you need to find in your partner for life: Honesty and Responsibility. But how can one find out about another person if they are honest and responsible?
There are three words that hold a couple together, in the hardest of times. And the words are not “I love you.” The words are, “I was wrong.” Being able to say these words means that a person has two honorable traits. Honesty and Responsibility. These magical words are so powerful that no matter how ‘bad a boy’ you were, they can melt even the angriest of hearts. People shy away from this magical confession, for they are afraid that it will deflate their ego. Ironically, nothing builds the ego like doing the right thing, taking responsibility and being honest, or saying “I was wrong”. There are some who mistakenly skip these magical three words, and say instead, “I am so sorry”. But, sorry does not mean that you honestly admit that you are human, and that you can make mistakes. The people in your life do not need more sorry people. They need more honest and responsible people, people who agree that they have made a mistake. But still, people are afraid of being human, of making mistakes, of being wrong. Accepting being human is what makes great people great.
There is something very unique that is found only in Judaism. A part of our daily prayer is to say that we have sinned. Seemingly, the proper thing to do would be to admit that we sinned when we sinned, or upon our realization that we have done something wrong. Not as a daily prayer. Why did our Rabbis see fit that we admit our sins in our daily prayers, three times a day, in Shacharit, Mincha, and before going to bed?
In this week’s Parasha, we see that Bilaam, the Rasha, who was on his way to curse the Jews, got into an argument with his donkey. The donkey, upon seeing the angel in his way, attempted to veer to the side of the road, upon which Bilaam gave it a beating. Then again, while passing through a narrow path in a vineyard, Bilaam’s donkey saw the angel of G-d and tried to move to the side, crushing Bilaam’s leg. Bilaam continued to hit the donkey. Again, the donkey tried to continue on the road with Bilaam on its back, when the Angel of G-d got in the way a third time, with no shoulders on the road. Bilaam’s donkey crouched on the ground with Bilaam on its back. Bilaam got furious and hit the donkey with an even bigger stick.
And Hashem opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Bilaam,Â “What did I do wrong to you, that you hit me three times?” Bilaam answered, You have disgraced me! If I would have had a sword in my hand, I would have killed you! The donkey replied,” Am I not the donkey who was faithful to you?” The donkey rebuked Bilaam, and Bilaam had nothing to reply. And then, G-d opened Bilaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel. Bilaam bowed. The angel then rebuked Bilaam for his having mistreated the donkey. And the angel was even going to kill Bilaam, but instead, the angel killed the donkey.
And then Bilaam, who now realized that he was in deep trouble, did the slyest thing, to save his skin. He said the magical words: “I was wrong”. Bilaam said to the angel of G-d, ” I erred, for I did not know that you were standing opposite me; and now, if (my trip) is bad in your eyes, I will return.”
The Midrash Rabbah asks, Why did Bilaam say “××××ª× Â , I erred?” Because he was smart, and he knew that nothing could stop misfortune from being visited upon a person, more than Repentance. For anyone who sinned and says “I was wrong”, the angel of evil has no power over that man.
Imagine that. Even a man so wicked as Bilaam, who was doing everything in his power to destroy the Jewish People, used for his own benefit the ability to say ××××ª×, I was wrong, and it saved his life. Here, the man who knew G-dly things that no one else knew, said that he did not know what his donkey knew, that an angel was in his path. He admitted that he was human, and “got away with murder”.
When we admit that we were wrong, we make use of a tool that has such great power. It builds us. It saves us from misfortune. And this is why we say it three times a day.
Try to find it in your day, the ability to say, “I was wrong”.Â This can improve your relationships, with others, with G-d, and with yourself. And more than that. Genuinely happy people are honest and responsible. You will become genuinely happy.