With – literally – two small strokes a Grade 8 student in rural Pakistan ruined her life and that of her family. Thirteen-year-old Faryal Bhatti was given a rather simple assignment: copying a verse from the Quran. But instead of writing the Arabic word for “praise” a misplaced dot and an elongated line turned the word into “curse.” Since the verse was speaking of Mohammed, it created a stir. But rather than just calling it a spelling mistake, her teacher and the clerics of the village called it blasphemy: a capital offense under Islamic law. While the case has yet to reach its conclusion, she was already beaten by publicly by her teacher, her mother lost her job, and the family was evicted from their home. That this story surfaced during the Penitential Period (ending with Hoshana Rabbah) for Jews is striking. The Psalmist proclaims: “Who knows the reason for mistakes; and from unintentional wrongs find me innocent.” Judaism asserts that innocent mistakes are precisely that. We learn from them and move forward without fear of recrimination. Unfortunately, this wise approach has yet to be universally adopted.
Rabbi Wayne Allen
After being graduated from New York University with a B.A. in philosophy and Phi Beta Kappa, Rabbi Allen attended the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he earned a Masters degree in Rabbinics and went on to receive rabbinic ordination. He has served as a congregational rabbi for almost 34 years, taking on postings in New York City, Los Angeles, and Toronto.