37 - The Laws of Asking Forgivness part 1

Obligations of the Offender: Ideally, the offender should appease the victim and personally ask his forgiveness.

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 one person you are holding a grudge against (even a little one) and try to see the Hashgacha Pratis in that case.

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

Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #37




Obligations of the Offender:  Ideally, the offender should appease the victim and personally ask his forgiveness.  However, if this is extremely difficult or if we know that our efforts are likely to be more successful if they are carried out by an intermediary, then we may do so through an agent.

We should not give up if our apology does not elicit immediate results.  We are obligated to make three separate attempts to appease the other person, and we should be accompanied by three people and should use a different approach each time.  If we have done this and if we have paid the victim any monetary compensation we owe him (according to halacha) for the shame or pain he suffered at our hands – and the person still refuses to forgive us - then we are not obligated to press the matter any further.  At that point, we should declare in the presence of ten Jews that we have asked the person for m’chila, making it clear that we have done our part.

If, however, the victim is a teacher who taught us Torah, even if he is not our rebbe muvhak, our primary mentor, then our obligation is greater:  We must go back to him again and again until he agrees to forgive us. (Mishpetei Hashalom 3:24-26)  

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

Story(based on a true story)

There are always a huge amount of issues that baalei teshuva experience in their relationship to their family members.  

In as much as my extended family tolerated the twists and turns of the Orthodox lifestyle my husband and I chose, it often impinged upon vacation plans, restaurant choices and styles of dress.  Nevertheless, nothing was insurmountable.  Somehow my mother got used to the idea that I couldn’t break Shabbos “just once” and pretend Hashem wasn’t looking in order to cater to a better flight arrangement.  My sister also learned that there were some things I just couldn’t eat and tried to work with me when I visited my old stomping ground, home.

However, when my brother informed me that he was in contact with my son in Israel, new challenges were presented to all involved parties. Initially, learning that my brother spoke to my son Moshe provided me a warm feeling; I thought about how my son was showing honor to his non-religious uncle, while my brother was able to encourage my son in his studies.  Building relationships with family is important to me.

However, my fantasy did not match reality.  I spoke with my brother to try and get a feel for the conversations he was having with my son, and he told me that his relationship with Moshe was private and conversations were not my business.  My brother then informed me directly that he planned to tell my son that he thinks he should “get out of the Yeshiva” when he can, as much as he can, and see the world.  He continued to preach that he believed it was important for Moshe to learn what he himself knew about life, and not just what he got from his parents.  

I respectfully told my brother that this was not a good idea and appreciated him supporting our decision (and Moshe’s) that Moshe stay at the yeshiva.  Within seconds, as one would draw a sword, my brother escalated the attack and stated he would do no such thing.  All the more so, he would talk to Moshe and tell him that we, his parents, “have no control whatsoever over him.” 

I tried to remain calm, but I could feel my blood pressure rising.  Seconds passed and pride won over silence.  I told my brother he had no right to get involved this way with my son, who was still quite young and innocent.  I told him that I did not approve of his lifestyle.  And I asked why on earth, all of a sudden does he feel inclined to forge a relationship with my son?  Needless to say, my brother was not pleased with my response and told me I was a controlling, narrow-minded person.

I hung up, feeling lost and discouraged.  I didn’t know how to handle the situation, and I knew I had crossed over a line (or two).

I calmed down for an hour and allowed my ego to die.  I realized in all my worrying about a threat to my son’s mitzva observance, I was doing aveiros bein adam lechaveiro.  I had to make amends and call my brother back.

First, I asked my brother if he had a minute to talk, and he agreed.  Next, I asked him to listen to me just for a moment, and told him my relationship with him meant a lot to me.  I explained to him that I was feeling very nervous about my son being so far away and missed him very much – and maybe I was overly sensitive and reactive.   I told him that while I didn’t want for him to specifically recommend that my son go against what we’ve taught him, he did have the right to build a relationship with Moshe.

After I spoke a few more words, I was so surprised to hear what my brother said.  First, he forgave me right away without bearing any grudge.  Thenhe said he appreciated me calling him back right away, and next told me he saw how much this whole thing means to me.  ‘Everybody slips up once in a while,” he said.  “No big deal.’  We ended up talking about how our father pushed us too hard in many ways in athletics, and that this was my brother’s motive for wanting Moshe to stray from such a structured plan, not to be so hard on himself and to enjoy his time in Israel.  

Tears came to my eyes.  I had gained so much perspective and connection from this request for forgiveness, and I felt tremendously grateful.  I may not have agreed with my brother, but I understood him.

Discussion Question Options:

What can we do if a relative does not accept our plea for forgiveness?  How do different levels of observance affect this issue?

In what ways does asking for forgiveness bring people together?

Do we need to ask forgiveness for doing or saying something that hurts another when we are positive it was the right thing to do?

Stretch of the Week:

Think of a confrontation where you may have gone overboard, and ask the other person for forgiveness. 


Stretch Of The Week