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Ask Gil
Dear Readers: I LOVE READING YOUR EMAIL!!!! SO, if you'd like to say something about this website, the Email of the Week column or have a different Jewish issue/question on your mind please send it in. I am always looking for emails for future columns and a book I am writing (you will remain anonymous, of course). So, please email me at GilMann@BeingJewish.org just click on the blue letters. I look forward to your emails! 



Dear Readers,

These columns began on my area of America Online, called:  Judaism Today:  Where Do I Fit?   People anonymously sent me E-Mail, and I began to choose one for a public response in my Jewish E-Mail of the Week column. The column has become quite popular and is now syndicated internationally in many Jewish papers and websites.  I hope you find they help you as you think about the Ethics, Spirituality and Peoplehood components of the Jewish way of Life.  I welcome your comments... see the end of the column.


PS  Teachers and others, feel free to copy my columns and forward them or use them as you see fit.  Please see the friendly copyright notice at the end.

Why Should I Ask for Forgiveness? She Wronged Me!!!


Following Rosh Hashanah last year, two different people contacted me by email to say that someone they know had severely wronged them during the year. Both felt challenged by their rabbis when told to ask for forgiveness. Though they used different words, they both expressed the sentiment..."but the other person is the one who should apologize!"

Has this ever happened to you? I know I have found myself in this situation. Read on to see two similar tales of hurt and anger--with very different results....(I have edited these letters in part, to hide identities.)

Dear Gil:

There is one person in particular that has me totally perplexed and unsettled. Our rabbi says that the only true way is to go up to the person, ask for forgiveness, etc., etc. (You know the steps) This man actually wronged me (although it DOES take two to tango).

Anyway I didn't want to go into shul and into holy days being angry and was trying to find a way to deal with this. I went up to him and wished him a Happy New Year and he shunned me. That was Erev Rosh Hashanah. In the morning I ran into him. I had bought a few bagels and offered one to him. He looked at me with a half smile and turned his back

At that point that I went to our rabbi and said "that's two" one more and I am done. According to my rabbi gestures and good faith don't mean anything in this situation. He said I had to go up and ask for forgiveness.......I was trying to get over WHAT HE did to me by making gestures. Why would I apologize to him?



Dear L:

Unfortunately, your well meaning gestures obviously did not improve the situation between you and this other person. If they had and you were able to patch things up, I might feel differently. But, as you note, according to Jewish tradition, we must ask for forgiveness 3 times before we are released from the obligation to apologize. So, I agree with your rabbi, your gestures are not a substitute for a direct apology.

Why should you apologize you ask? I can think of 2 reasons. First is simple--you yourself wrote that you contributed to things going bad when you wrote "it takes two to tango."

While you have acknowledged this in your letter, from the rest of your letter I gather you feel the other person is far more in the wrong than you. And this leads me to reason number 2. At this point, it doesn't matter who is at fault, the situation is causing you pain and making you a prisoner of your own anger.

Perhaps, this sounds a little strong. To explain what I mean, I want to share with you another email I received this week from a person who also felt wronged by another. Though she did not verbally apologize--psychologically she did and the results were liberating for her.

Hope these words and those that follow are helpful to you.



Dear Gil:

Last year at the opening of the evening Rosh Hashanah service, our Rabbi suggested to the congregation that we begin the service by taking a moment to silently ask someone for forgiveness. As he said this, the face of a friend sprang into my mind -- someone who had been dear to me in the past, but with whom I had broken off the friendship -- and she had broken off her friendship with me -- out of anger some six months before. During those six months, I had repeatedly and daily fumed over the things she had done that made me angry. Occasionally I said to myself aloud that I forgave her ... yet in my heart, I did not forgive her. Each day I only became angrier with her, and it seemed as if my anger was going to suffocate me.

When the rabbi spoke of asking someone for forgiveness and her face came to mind, I reacted inside with surprise. Why should I ask HER to forgive ME? SHE was the one who was wrong! I was right, I was certain of it! But with a sigh, I decided to just go through the motions of this silly exercise and get it behind me.

So I closed my eyes, envisioned talking to her, and said words to the effect of: "Please forgive me. I have judged you these past six months when it was not my right to do so. I apologize to you and ask your forgiveness." I saw her smile back at me and say, "Of course I forgive you!"

I opened my eyes again and felt a surge of warmth -- indescribable in words. I suddenly felt much lighter ... I can't explain it. The service went on and I forgot about the episode. Forgot about my ex-friend, in fact. She completely left my mind.

Two days later she popped into my head and I realized I hadn't thought ill toward her in two days ... a remarkable situation, since I had been consumed with my fury toward her for the previous six months. As I thought about her again, no anger was present, only a sense of calm. That morning in my mail was a card from her wishing me Shanah Tovah (She is not Jewish.). She said she hoped I was well and would have a good year.

The card had been mailed the day before ... the morning after I had asked her forgiveness. Had she received my message subconsciously? As I read the card, I felt no ill will toward her, only peace of mind and love for our friendship past. I had a desire to see her again, and no lingering anger.

Some weeks later, I sent her a birthday card and received a phone call from her. It was as if nothing in anger had happened between us. The old feelings of righteousness on my part have not returned. I only feel a solemnity about our relationship, a feeling that the anger came to a complete close and will not come back over that episode, or perhaps ever. It has been the greatest feeling of peace that I have ever known.

Perhaps the best way to begin this new year is not to say we forgive but to ask forgiveness of everyone else in our lives that we have judged.



Dear Y:

As you can see, I am sharing your letter with another person who wrote to me--and the rest of the world :)

I couldn't help wondering if you ever told your friend directly of your synagogue experience. I'd bet she'd be touched. Besides, I can't say I am big on people in other locations picking up subconsciously transmitted messages.

Still, I can't argue with the end result. And I especially would not take issue with the lessons you have shared about asking for forgiveness. I hope others find it as valuable as I did.

Thanks for writing!


Copyright Gil Mann

These columns can be found at www.beingjewish.org.  Not only do I give you permissions to copy these Jewish Email columns...I HOPE YOU WILL and that you share them with others!  All I ask is that you never charge anyone for them and that you also include this little copyright notice.  Thank You!
Ask Gil
Dear Readers: I LOVE READING YOUR EMAIL!!!! SO, if you'd like to say something about this website, the Email of the Week column or have a different Jewish issue/question on your mind please send it in. I am always looking for emails for future columns and a book I am writing (you will remain anonymous, of course). So, please email me at GilMann@BeingJewish.org just click on the blue letters. I look forward to your emails! 


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