Preparing for the New Year /
One Erev Yom Kippur
I received a phone call from a man who was very upset, because someone
called to ask him for forgiveness.
"That's a good thing, why would such a request bother you?"
"Earlier in the year I was cut out of a business deal by my partners.
When one of my partners called me today, I felt the phone call was
made with an ulterior motive, because he wants to go into Yom Kippur with
a clean slate. I feel that he waited until today to ask knowing I would
feel compelled to forgive. But Rabbi, right now the hurt is still too
deep, and I don't feel like forgiving. Must I forgive him? Do I have a
right not to forgive?"
"It's certainly in your best interest to forgive someone asking for
forgiveness. It's explained in the Code of Jewish Law that the Yom Kippur
prayers of one who withholds forgiveness on Erev Yom Kippur will not be
accepted. Also, forgiveness is liberating; it frees you from holding a
grudge and hating. You will help yourself by forgiving him."
tradition the days before Yom Kippur are an auspicious time to ask for
forgiveness - and many people use this time for genuine requests for
pardon from their fellow man. Why, then, didn't my caller feel better and
more forgiving from the phone call he received?
To me it
would seem that the request for forgiveness was not done properly.
Conciliation means that the asking for forgiveness must be genuine and the
offended party must be appeased by the petition. True, The Code of Jewish
Law gives us practical advice to ask for forgiveness so we can go into the
new year with a clean slate, but in regard to the other person we are
suspect. Since we stand to benefit from the request, we must extend a
special effort to show that we are sincere.
Many years ago,
when I was a teenager, I was standing in shul on Simchas Torah morning,
after a long night of dancing and L'Chaim's.
A Yeshiva student came over to me and asked,
"Shea, will you forgive me?"
I looked at him
wondering if he was crazy or drunk. We did spend the night drinking and
dancing and the timing for the request was a little off. Most of these
conversations take place around the Yomim Noraim - the High Holy Days. But
the boy then went on to acknowledge exactly what he was asking forgiveness
for, so I knew he was serious.
He then asked
me, "Do you want to know why I didn't come to ask you before Rosh
Hashana or Yom Kippur, or on the last day associated with the asking of
forgiveness - Hoshana Rabbah? It's because I wanted you to know that I am
genuinely sorry for what I did."
his request for forgiveness when it wasn't necessarily to his advantage
and stating that he understood what he did that would have hurt, the boy
showed his honesty in remorse and regret. Had I been genuinely hurt, the
way he asked and the timing of the asking would have made it easy to
and the manner of asking forgiveness make a difference. The correct time
to ask for forgiveness, is either immediately after the damage is done or
else when one can show that they have nothing to gain from the asking. The
proper way to appease someone we are asking forgiveness from is to
acknowledge the hurt that was done, the losses that were incurred and then
- without excuses or justifications - ask the person for forgiveness.
Let us try not to cause offense to our
brothers or sisters so we will not need to ask for forgiveness.
Furthermore, we should pray that if we mistakenly do so, we ask for
forgiveness properly so that we are given a ‘Simchas Torah' forgiveness.
more articles by Rabbi Hecht