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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Pardes on Forgiveness

By TorahLab

During the Six Day War, when bomb shelters were full and air raid sirens were blasting, many of the inhabitants of the Meah Shearim area of Jerusalem sat together in one bomb shelter. Among them was the great Rosh Yeshiva of Mir, Harav Chaim Shmuelevitz of blessed memory. Together, people said Tehilim and prayed that they should not be harmed and that Jerusalem should be liberated. Amongst them was a woman who was known to all. She had been divorced and had gone through a great deal of agony from her ex-husband. She had spent years in pain over matrimonial issues. Suddenly the woman blurted out and said to God, “I forgive my husband for all the pain he has caused me. Just let us come out of this alive.” Rav Chaim turned to his students and said, “ If we leave this shelter unharmed and in fact if the State of Israel wins the war, I believe it is in the merit of this woman.”

When one person sins against another, the offended person should not begrudge him and stay quiet rather he is obligated to protest and say “Why did you do this to me?”. (Maimonidies Laws of Da’os 6;6)

Teshuva and Yom Kippur can only atone for sins that man commits against G-d, such as eating non- kosher, etc. However, when man sins against his fellow man by injuring him, cursing him or robbing him, he is not forgiven until he pays his debt and appeases the injured party. Even after he compensates for the damage done he must appease him and ask him for forgiveness. Even if his offense was only verbal he must persevere until the offended party forgives him. If the injured party refuses to forgive him he should appear before him with three of his close friends and ask for forgiveness. If he still refuses he should repeat this process a second and third time. If he still refuses to forgive you should leave him and he who refuses to forgive is the sinner. If the injured or offended party is his teacher one must return even one thousand times until forgiveness is granted. (Maimonidies Laws of Teshuva 2;9)

It is forbidden for a person to be merciless and not grant forgiveness. One should rather be easy to calm and slow to anger. When someone is asked for forgiveness he should grant it with a full and sincere heart. Even if the sinner has caused great injury he should forgive him, for it is forbidden to take revenge. This is the way of the Jewish people and the characteristic which makes them special. (Maimonidies, Laws of Teshuva 2:10)

Once one forgives his fellowman it is forbidden to bear a grudge. If he finds himself still feeling angry towards the person who offended him, it would be as if he has given a gift or forgiven a debt and is now demanding it back. (Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, Ohr Yisroel 58)

If one injured his fellow man and the injured person died before granting forgiveness, the offender should gather ten people at the graveside and cry out, “I have sinned to the Lord of Israel and to this man whom I have injured”. (Maimonidies, Laws of Teshuva 2;11)

When one seeks forgiveness from his friend he must specify the nature of his wrongdoing. If he feels that specifying the sin will embarrass his friend, he should ask for general forgiveness. (Mateh Efraim 606:2)

When one person harms another, the custom in our society is to appoint a third party to mediate between them. This is incorrect. The offender must approach the friend directly and beg forgiveness. (R’ Yaacov Ibn Habib, quoted in Kaf Hachayim 606:11)

One who offends another and does not receive his forgiveness cannot be atoned for any of his sins, even those that have nothing to do with this particular transgression or person. (Chavos Yair. Yefeh Lev quoted in Kaf Hachayim 606;3)

because."Just like when one immerses in a Mikvah one’s entire body must be surrounded with water at one time, so too when one repents before G-d, both the spiritual and social sins must be atoned at the same time ...... (Rabbi Yehuda Leib Ginzburg in Mussar Hamishnah)

Reb Yosi said, the obligation to grant forgiveness does not apply to someone who has damaged one’s reputation. One who destroys the reputation of another is never forgiven.  (Jerusalem Talmud Bava Kama 8 )

... it is impossible to undo the damage that was done. People will hear the rumor but not the apology and the victim will still suffer. Nevertheless, it is a trait of the modest and the pious to overcome ones nature and grant complete forgiveness, even if it is difficult. (Rabbi Shlomo Luria, Maharshal, in Yam shel Shlomo Bava Kama 8:63, and Mishna Brura O.C 606)

Rabbi Yosef Baer Soleveitchik, the rabbi of Slutzk, once gave a legal decision against a butcher in a case involving Kashruth. The next day, the butcher entered the study house where R’ Yosef Baer was learning with his students, brandishing his knife, clearly in a distraught state, and accused R’ Yosef Baer of giving a dishonest judgment. Eventually, after pouring out his distress, he left. R’ Yosef Baer ran after him shouting, “I forgive you! I forgive you!”
A few days later he heard that the butcher had been killed by the bull which he had bought. R’ Yosef blamed himself bitterly for the butcher’s fate. “What do you mean?” his son asked, “I was present, and I saw you run after him and forgive him!” “Yes,” he replied, “I told him I forgave him, but I did not mean it in my heart.” So he blamed himself for not acting against his nature.
R’ Yosef Baer went to the funeral of the butcher, and acted as a chief mourner, tearing his clothes. Also, because the butcher had no sons, he said kaddish for him for eleven months. The yahrzeit of this butcher is observed in the Brisk Yeshiva to this day. (Reachings pg. 76)

Since man is created in the image of G-d, we have the ability to act G-dly. It is therefore not acceptable to use the excuse, “I’m only human.” Here are some ways to emulate G-d.

1. When someone asks you, “How can I repair the damage I have done to our relationship?” don’t answer, “You made the problem, you fix it.” When man sins against G-d, G-d Himself cleans up the mess that man created and repairs the relationship.

2. When someone offends you and then asks for your love back, have compassion and even more love than you had before. Treat the offender as G-d treats a Baal Teshuva. G-d says “The Baal Teshuva stands even higher than the righteous who have never sinned.”

3. Ignore the bad that was done to you as much as possible, just as we ask G-d to ignore our sins.

When one emulates G-d, one stimulates that very character in G-d . The way we act with our fellow man is exactly how G-d will act with us and that character will shine brightly in the world. (Based on Rabbi Moshe Cordevero, Tomer Devorah Chap. 1)

Master of the universe, I hereby forgive anyone who angered or antagonized me or who sinned against me - whether against my body, my property, my honor or against anything of mine; whether he did so accidentally, willfully, carelessly, or purposely; whether through speech, deed, thought, or notion; whether in this transmigration or another transmigration - I forgive every Jew.  May no man be punished because of me.  May it be Your will, HASHEM, my God and the God of my forefathers, that I may sin no more, that I not return to them, that I never again anger You, and that I do not do what is evil in Your eyes.  Whatever sins I have done before You, may You blot out in Your abundant mercies, but not through suffering or harmful illnesses.  May the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before You, HASHEM, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Prayer recited every night before going to sleep based on Kabbalistic Tradition)

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