The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

by

Simon Wiesenthal

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The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness: Abraham Joshua Heschel Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Heschel tells a parable about the rabbi of Brisk. The rabbi is taking the train to return to his hometown. In his train car, an exciting game of cards begins, but he remains aloof. His aloofness becomes annoying to the rest of the people in the game, and after growing more and more annoyed, one of the players takes him by the collar and removes him from the compartment. The rabbi then stands for several hours.
Heschel, another rabbi, also takes on a strategy employed in Judaism and Christianity in using a parable in order to illustrate his point. These stories, which have a basic underlying lesson, take the lessons and create a larger set of morals, which then translate to how one should act.
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When the train arrives, the player sees the rabbi shaking the hands of many people, and asks who the man is. When he is told it is the famous rabbi of Brisk, the man asks for forgiveness. The rabbi does not grant it. The man’s anxiety becomes unbearable, and the people in the town are surprised by the rabbi.
In this parable, the rabbi stands in for any person who has been wronged, while the player who abused him stands in for the criminal or perpetrator.
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When the rabbi’s son hears of his father’s obstinacy, he asks why he would not forgive the man. The rabbi answers that he cannot forgive the man because the man did not know who he was. The man offended a common person, and so he should ask a common person for forgiveness. Heschel ends with the statement that no one can forgive crimes committed against other people.
The moral of the story—that one cannot forgive crimes committed against others—becomes Heschel’s way of reasoning that Simon cannot forgive Karl for the crimes that he committed against other Jews. Thus, Heschel becomes yet another example of Jewish respondents who agree with Simon’s response.
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