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The Elements of Jewish Living

Points of Forgiveness

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

1. One is permitted to withhold forgiveness if it is for the good of the offender.

2. If one offended another person, even if only verbally, he must beg his forgiveness.

3. If one offends his fellow man, one must beg forgiveness. If it is not granted, he must return three times, as did the brothers of Joseph.
Each time the offender asks for forgiveness, he must change his language and ask from a different angle.

4. If one offends his fellow man he must beg his forgiveness. If it is not granted he must return three times. If the one offended is his “Rebbe??, he must return, even 1000 times.

5. From Joseph's response to his brothers asking forgiveness, we learn that it is insufficient to just not take revenge, one must also extend to them acts of loving kindness beyond what he would otherwise not have extended.

6. Joseph, however, did not explicitly grant forgiveness to his brothers, even though he comforted them. The brothers died without ever being forgiven explicitly. Because of this their descendants were punished with the death of the Ten Martyrs in the hands of the Romans.

7. Abraham not only granted forgiveness to Avimelech, but he prayed for him and his whole household. The Talmud derives from here that if one doesn't grant forgiveness when asked to do so, he is considered a cruel person.

8. Saul killed Gibeonites when he massacred the people of Nov. They never forgave the Jews for this. Because of their lack of forgiveness, Hashem brought famine on Israel for three years. David asked the Gibeonites for forgiveness, but they wouldn't forgive unless seven sons of Saul were hung. David proclaimed “the Gibeonites lack of basic Jewish quality, and therefore never can become Jewish.??

9. Hashem commanded Avimelech to ask Abraham to pray for him. It wasn't enough just to return his wife. He had to become so close to Abraham that Abraham would actually pray for Avimelech and his household.

10. Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah punctuated the verse to read: “Sins that you have done before Hashem will be forgiven on Yom Kippur.?? Whereas sins against ones fellowman require personal reconciliation.

11. If one is asked for forgiveness, but refuses to grant it, he is taking revenge of his oppressor. He is therefore violating a prohibition of the Torah.
One must realize that everything comes from Hashem. The person who hurt you is a pawn in the hands of Hashem. There is, therefore, no reason not to grant his request for forgiveness.

12. One must ask forgiveness personally, and not through a designated emissary.

It is best to forgive someone who hurt you even if they don't ask for your forgiveness.

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