Blanket Forgiveness

September 21, 2012

The Ten Days of Repentance

We’re in the midst of Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance. The time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when we have our “last chance” to do teshuvah, repentance, for the things we did wrong last year. The last chance to try and fix things up with both our fellow man and our maker, before the “judgment is sealed” on Yom Kippur.

Which means it’s also the time of year when some people will send emails to all their contacts, or post on their Facebook wall a statement similar to:

“I’m sorry if I did or said anything in the last year that offended you, and hope you will forgive me.”

Those emails and FB posts bother me.

I appreciate the sentiment – but they kind of miss the point of the teshuvah process.

The whole idea is that you must first examine your deeds, figure out who you wronged. Confess to yourself. Then you must approach the other person and ask for their forgiveness for the specific thing(s) you did wrong. And then God will forgive you. A blanket request for forgiveness in my book is completely meaningless. There is no “soul searching” involved in that.

If you’re worried you offended someone and were either unaware, or forgot about it, a better blanket email to send would be:

“If I said or did anything in the last year that caused you pain, please contact me privately and let me know, so I can have an opportunity to try and make it right.”

Who knows, you might discover that something you said that you thought was innocuous was actually hurtful to someone. It could be a learning experience.

Even though Maimonides says that one reason for the commandment to rebuke people when they wrong you is so that they will have the opportunity to repent, I don’t recommend just going around and randomly telling people what they’ve done that has pissed you off in the last year. Human nature hasn’t changed in 2000 years – the rabbis in the Talmud said “there are none in this generation who know how to give rebuke…and none who know how to accept it.” Some things never change. Most people still aren’t very good about either giving or accepting criticism. Save it for when people ask – or right when it happens.

May you be sealed for a good year…healthy, prosperous, and with many simchas to celebrate…

Reb Barry

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