38 - The Laws of Asking Forgivness part 2

The Rambam writes that the victim should not be cruel and withhold his forgiveness - this is not the Jewish way.

We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chusim for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.


Last week’s stretch of the week was:  Think of a confrontation where you may have gone overboard, and ask the other person for forgiveness. 

Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.

Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #38


PART 2 – Obligation Of The Victim


The Rambam writes that the victim should not be cruel and withhold his forgiveness – this is not the Jewish way.  Rather, once the offender comes to ask his m’chila and pleads with him once and then again, then as long as he feels assured that the offender has genuinely repented and regrets his wrongdoings he should forgive him.  “The quicker he forgives, the more praiseworthy he is; the Sages approve of him.”

According to some opinions, even though we are not permitted to harbor a grudge or take revenge by doing to the other person what he did to us, the basic halacha does not require us to forgive him in every case.

One of the exceptions to the general obligation to be quick to forgive is a case where someone has been motzi shaym ra – spread reports to sully our reputation.  This is a wrong that is almost impossible to correct.  In such a case, we do not have to forgive the offense, although it is an act of chassidus to do so nevertheless.

There is, however, no obligation to forgive the offender until he has done teshuva for his act and has come to appease us and to ask our forgiveness.  Certainly, if he persists in his aggressive behavior, we would not be expected to forgive him, nor must we forgive him in a case where we know that his attitude is flippant: “I’ll offend him and he will forgive me.”  (Even HaShem does not forgive the person who says, “I’ll sin and then do teshuva...”)

If outstanding financial claims remain between us and the offender when he approaches us, we can mention them at that time, so that there will be not implication that we are forgiving the debts he still owes us, and we can take the opportunity to encourage him to pay the debt sooner. (Mishpetei Hashalom 3:23, 27-28, 30).

(Excerpted from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rav Yitzchok Silver)

Story(based on a true story)

Most of the time when we get ourselves into social conflicts, after a cooling down period, we end up recognizing that there areas where we were wrong.  But something once happened where I believed I was right, but in order to preserve the friendship, I endured a tremendous amount of pain.

I am a female chiropractor who has treated women in my community for a number of ailments.  It is my professional commitment to take appointments only.  One evening I decided I should really rest.  I had worked quite hard the entire week and felt myself getting sick.  I decided to let go of the dishes, wait to return phone calls and rest for a night.

Within a few minutes, a friend of mine called and told me that her aging mother fell down and asked if I would come by and adjust her.  This was a tough call for me since I was feeling ill myself and I was unable to take an x-ray of this women’s back - or area of the fall.  I told my friend kindly that I didn’t think this was a good idea and it would be best if she took her mother to the hospital.

At the time, my friend responded with one more attempt by indicating that if I had some spare time, she would appreciate that I look in on her mother.  I replied that this was something that needed to be medically evaluated and I was not about to treat this woman, especially since I was not in my office.  She appeared to understand and I wished her mother a refua sh’layma.

Approximately two weeks later I entered the women’s section of a shul for a simcha and saw my friend there.  I smiled and she did not respond much.  Once the davening had ended she came up to me and stated quite loudly that she was very upset.  “How could you not come and see my mother who had just fallen?”  

My seven year old daughter was by my side and looked quite embarrassed.  I reminded my friend that I did not feel comfortable treating her mother in her living room and told her that it would be best to see a doctor.  The tone in her voice raised and she loudly said in front of at least ten women that I was very selfish and I should have come over.  She then walked away.  

I felt stunned.  I tried to remain composed and told my daughter that this was a bit of a misunderstanding and I would call my friendsoon to rectify things.  However, I don’t remember ever feeling so embarrassed, and I waited until erev Yom Kippur - a couple of months later - to give my friend an apology and explain to her that I didn’t mean to neglect her mother or offend her.  I told her I had not been feeling well and I felt it was best that her mother see a doctor for such a bad fall, but I wished I could have helped more in some way or responded in a more caring manner.  She responded and said it was okay, but she still sounded very aloof.

Still not able to return to our close friendship, I prayed for her.  I attended her graduation party and left messages of care.  I saw her in shul and told her she meant a lot to me.  I believed that by bringing up the injury incident it would be hurting her again, so I did not address it.

It wasn’t until at least three years later that I could see she had forgiven me.  She told me that she had been very hurt by the incident and admitted she was going through a very deep depression and was in fear of financial insecurity, among other things.  She gave me a big hug and told me I meant a lot to her, having stuck by her all this time.

Discussion Question Options:

Are there situations where we should not ask for forgiveness multiple times even if we are refused the first time?

How much can we expect to sacrifice our self-esteem and self-care for the sake of another person?  For the sake of receiving forgiveness?  How much do we have to take the other person’s mindset into account?

At what point should we consider ourselves forgiven?  Is it enough to be told, “It’s OK?”

Stretch of the Week:

Work on forgiving someone in your heart whom you’ve already forgiven verbally. 


Stretch Of The Week