Apologies and Forgiveness

A Time to Forgive

It is advisable to avoid reaching the point of three apologies by seeking forgiveness in the right place and at the right time to begin with

(Photo: Allan Mas)

A few years ago, on the eve of the holidays of Tishrei, I took my car for the yearly checkup. While waiting in line, a man to my left reached out his hand to another man and with the most sincere look, apologized from the depths of his heart. So simple, yet so touching.

Who is unfamiliar with the custom on the eve of the holidays to ask loved ones, "Please forgive me if I have offended you"? Is this sincere? Is this effective?

I remember a case that occurred in the community where I used to live. There was a cantor who prayed in a manner that went against the rabbi's guidelines. Another person in the community spoke out against that cantor, and the cantor was deeply hurt. The person who spoke out asked for forgiveness. Did he genuinely regret his actions, or did he ask for forgiveness because "that's the right thing to do"?

Can asking for forgiveness from a critical, ambitious or idealistic place be authentic?

According to Jewish law, the one who has caused harm is required to ask for forgiveness up to three times. If the offended party doesn't forgive, it is still enough because the offender has done his part. However, it is advisable to avoid reaching the point of three apologies by seeking forgiveness in the right place and at the right time to begin with.

In our prayers, we say, "May this hour be a time of compassion and favor before you." The same applies when asking for forgiveness from another person – it is recommended to seek forgiveness at the most promising time, as it increases the likelihood of succeeding. If forgiveness hasn't been granted, we can learn from the experience and try again during another favorable moment. In any case, a sincere request for forgiveness is likely to invite reconciliation.

May it be that we begin the year with our past mistakes forgiven, and a sense of "I'm cared about" sitting in the hearts of each one of us.


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