Why I Lied to the Teacher

Why I Lied to the Teacher

When I was growing up, one year my father sent in money to the IRS to contribute towards the social security of our family’s cleaning lady. A few months later, the IRS returned the money, saying my father didn’t have to pay taxes for her. But my father sent the money back, writing a letter explaining why, in fact, he did.

I don’t remember who won this unusual back-and-forth in the end, but it gives you a sense of the kind of family I come from. I am not as honest as my father, but his DNA is running through at least some of my veins.

And that means that I rarely lie. And 99 times out of 100, if a child asks me to pleeeease make up a story so he or she won’t get in trouble (for coming late, or missing school, or not having a project ready on time, etc.) I say no, and explain that I don’t like to lie.

But one day last week I encountered a 1 in 100. One of my high-school girls came to me crying…She felt overwhelmed, desperate, that she needed out of a certain responsibility. I suggested she should speak with her teacher directly, to tell her how overwhelmed she was feeling, but she said she knew her teacher, and her teacher wouldn’t be flexible. So I told my daughter that I was anyway planning to set up a doctor’s appointment she needed on that day, and she could get out of the responsibility.

And I did set up the doctor’s appointment on that day, but then for various reasons, I switched it. But I didn’t tell the teacher. In other words, I LIED to the teacher. And the teacher found out, and she called me, and confronted me on the lie. She said that if we had spoken with her directly, instead of being “crooked,” then of course she would have been flexible with my daughter and found ways to make things easier for her…

And I felt embarrassed. And got all defensive about the school making unreasonable demands on the students. And hung up the phone in a huff.

Last night, that daughter’s school had parent-teacher conferences. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was face this teacher, but what choice did I have?

OY, how I didn’t want to go…OY how I didn’t want to apologize. I HATE apologizing. Like root canal hate.

So with a very heavy heart I got onto the bus to my daughter’s high school, but then something incredible happened. The bus drove a few meters and then just sat still in the Central Bus Station for 40 minutes. It turned out a demonstration had closed off the entrance to the Jerusalem. There was no way to get out of the city.

So I got off the bus and thanked Hashem from the bottom of my heart for this revealed miracle. No root-canal apologies for me!

I decided to celebrate my last-minute call from the governor by taking myself out to a nearby cafe for a salad and to re-read a few pages of Henny Machlis’ biography.

And after about half an hour, while munching on my salad, reading about Henny, I noticed that, as if my hand was moving on its own, a phone was lifted from the table. And fingers started tapping out the following words, “I am so sorry that I couldn’t come to tonight’s meeting with you because I wanted to ask for your forgiveness. Instead of being ‘crooked’ I should have discussed with you directly how we can best help my daughter.”

And then the following words were texted back: “Thank you!”

What an unusual afternoon…Which left me with the question…in the end, had any miracle taken place here? If the entrance to Jerusalem was shut down for several hours, but I still forked over my root-canal apology?

This morning I was listening to Rabbi Nivin’s class on the Omer, and he reminded us that this is the most powerful time of the year to change our character traits, to overcome our nature…

And I realized that was, in fact, the true revealed miracle Hashem made for me yesterday afternoon.

My miraculous sorry.


  1. Amazing!! Thanks for sharing.

  2. That IRS story is…. breathtaking.

  3. Hadassah

    Telling lies is one of my triggers to temper – if a student of mine is lying or cheating it upsets me more than anything else. This also upsets me as a parent so I can see where you are coming from. Apologizing for what you know was wrong is difficult especially when this is not your typical trait. It’s like getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar….
    I hope you shared with your daughter the fact that you were in communication with the teacher and had to apologize. I am not sure that even if you had the appointment as scheduled it would have been the right thing to do. We hate to embarrass our teenagers. It is worthwhile to share your thoughts and embarrassment with your daughter so she can learn (maybe) that honesty is usually the best way. (sorry to sound so preachy)

  4. When you pride yourself on honesty, and an integral part of your life is the effort you put into not lying, and then to get caught lying,
    it’s an awful feeling. No wonder you didn’t want to apologize.

    But you apologized anyway.
    You are a true inspiration.
    Thank you for opening yourself up to us.

  5. Incredible father, incredible daughter, incredible role model(Henny) incredible inspiration!

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